Ten years ago I was knocked sideways by Kate Summerscale's extraordinary book The Queen of Whale Cay.
It's the biography of Marion 'Joe' Carstairs (born 1900), champion speedboat racer and spirited 'ruler' of a group of islands in the West Indies. Jo's boundless self-confidence was underpinned by an equally unlimited private income (Standard Oil).
Central to the story is Carstairs' wildly peculiar 'relationship' with an inanimate object - her beloved doll/mascot/alter ego 'Lord Todd Wadley' (on her shoulder above) - creepy at first glance, poignant as the story unfolds.
Intriguing, funny and deliciously outré, the book is a page-turning proof text for 'truth being infinitely stranger than fiction' .
Not surprisingly, Summerscale has taken her time finding another subject for her pen. I'm pleased to report that, ten years on, she has delivered a humdinger.
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is a factual account of the shocking event that took place at Road Hill House, Trowbridge, in the summer of 1860: the murder of a child.
But this is much more than a whodunnit.
Through the prism of a family trauma, Summerscale manages to show us a vivid image of a whole turbulent society, where the seemingly powerful bonds of class and family are, in reality, deeply vulnerable.