Great Reading: Fernando Torres “El Niño” and Kate Summerscale “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher”

 In General


I’ve just finished up a couple of wildly different books that have kept me occupied over the Christmas break.
The first is the autobiography of footballer Fernando Torres, “El Niño” – possibly a surprise choice for anyone who knows me pretty well given that soccer isn’t really the centre of my world. The reason I picked it was that I’d had a number of emails and messages sent to my El Canto Del Loco website from Liverpool supporters saying that they’d been checking out the band because of it being mentioned in the Torres book; not a surprise perhaps, given the friendship of Torres with ECDL’s singer Dani Martin (and his cameo appearance in the promo video for “Ya Nada Volvera A Ser Como Antes”).

It’s been a thoroughly good, if easy read. In fact, surprisingly easy – not too heavy on match stats and the like – stuff that’s a powerful anaesthetic for me when it comes to football I have to admit – but more a genuine autobiography in that it feels very much about the man himself. It’s a journey, geographical and emotional from Madrid to Liverpool – and also a seemingly heartfelt love letter to the fans of both Atletico Madrid and Liverpool; two tribes that he feels are from exactly the same mould in many ways.
Torres comes across as someone who’s perfectly aware of his gifts and yet admirably modest and genuine, and someone who values where he comes from and those who helped get him to where he is.
Also it has to be said that the book is beautifully designed for something so ‘mainstream’ – and for an autobiography. Lovely spreads, great use of space, typography, grids and image texturing. I could get into this soccer lark!

The other book couldn’t be more different: “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher” by Kate Summerscale, which is very much a documentary account of perhaps the definitive and original “country house murder”. It is an amazing account; extraordinary in its scope and detail, a work borne of incredibly deep research that could easily have turned out dry and drab, and yet comes over as nothing short of a page-turner.
Full of atmosphere like a Wilkie Collins novel – not surprising as the case of Road Hill House influenced him in writing “The Moonstone”, it’s a grim and disturbing mystery of child murder and a dysfunctional Victorian family with dark secrets, and also an account of the birth/emergence of the detective as the centre of an investigation and the centre of attention – of the genesis of criminal investigation as a science, and of the explosion of the media’s fascination with crime and trials.

It’s fascinating to see how things have changed – how crime scenes are investigated, how evidence is gathered and treated, the timescales over how events unfurl, and the politics of local and metropolitan forces in handling media interest and public appetite.
A genuinely interesting historical study, and at the same time a gripping and creepy murder story.
Brilliant for curling up with in the warm with a bottle of the red stuff…

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