It's a funny coincidence that the authors of the two books I purchased while on vacation in the UK in the spring of 2009 both have new books out this summer. Last week I told you about the new novel from Chris Cleave; this week brings news of a new nonfiction book from Kate Summerscale, author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2008).

In that engrossing account, Summerscale documented one of Scotland Yard's very first cases, the 1860 murder of a three-year-old boy. This early example of an investigation that used modern detecting methods was breathlessly followed in the papers and inspired writers from Poe to Conan Doyle to Collins.

Mrs Robinson's Disgrace (Walker), to be published on June 19, is also about a case that made major headlines in the papers and scandal sheets of the day: one of the earliest divorce trials. A lonely middle-class wife, Isabella Robinson, ignored by her husband, begins keeping a diary that chronicled her infatuation with a married doctor, and her other innermost passions. Five years pass, until the fateful day in 1858 when her husband Henry discovers—and reads—the diary. Infuriated and outraged at the intimate entries, which to him prove that his wife has had an affair, Henry Robinson sues for divorce on grounds of adultery. The ensuing trial confounded various Victorian ideas about female sexuality, while confirming their society-threatening danger.

Sounds even more fascinating than Mr Whicher. Will you pick it up?


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