Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Anatomy of a Scandal is being published at a time when both sides of rape trials are under enormous scrutiny in the press. While I was reading this book, two men were acquitted because full disclosure hadn’t taken place, some commentators believe this is partly caused by the drive to secure more convictions in rape trials. What no-one can deny that this crime is usually committed without witnesses and I don’t envy any jury having to sift fact from fiction or maybe hazy memories when so much is at stake for both alleged victim and perpetrator. Coupled with the rape are the many scandals that seem to provide a backdrop to our country from those who hold the highest offices in the land, at Westminster. So the combination of Ministers and rape, well this could come straight from the newspapers of today, except of course the book is very well written!

Over the years my love of courtroom drama has increased and so when I heard of this book back in the summer, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy; Dear Reader, this book did not disappoint in the slightest.

James Whitehouse is a loving father, an Oxford graduate and a Tory MP, in fact the Prime Minister is one of his oldest friends. James is married to Sophie and has been for many years when he is arrested for the rape of one of his assistants but Sophie is convinced it’s all a terrible mistake.

Kate is the prosecuting attorney, out to make a bigger name for herself she knows that if she can persuade a jury to find James guilty then she can ride high off the back of it. Sex crimes is her speciality although she is realistic about the low conviction rate, she’s determined to win this one.

The story unfolds through the three sets of eyes and ears: Sophie’s, Kate’s and James and as each one seeks to convince us of their truth, the shadows from the past are creeping back into their lives creating a complexity about the truth that is nebulous and yet not about to disappear anytime soon.

Sarah Vaughan is an accomplished writer, she had my feelings about the characters shifting almost imperceptibly as I struggled to work out what I should believe. The plot, just like a real trial, isn’t just about the truth, it also confronts our own moral stance from the obvious What were you wearing? Doing? Thinking? or in other words those questions aimed at the alleged victim by the defence team, to the more subtle question of privilege and the jury’s own prejudices.

The plotting was superb especially given that the story reaches back through time the author managed to keep a sense of place and time without causing confusion, which I’m sure is far harder than she made it look. I was also completely convinced by the characters they spoke and acted realistically given that this was a time of enormous stress for them all, albeit for different reasons.

Anatomy of a Scandal might be presented as a rape trial, and of course it is, but there is far more depth to this novel than I expected. The roller-coaster isn’t just about the verdict, it is also about marriage, friendship and moral dilemmas making for a highly satisfying read.

Anatomy for a Scandal
is obviously perfect reading for a book group, I can see that this book will generate much discussion and debate around the subject matter and the way the trial progresses.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers, Simon & Schuster UK, for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book. You really did the right thing in purchasing this brilliant, intelligent and thought-provoking book. This unbiased review is my thank you to the publishers and of course, Sarah Vaughan, who I sincerely hope is busy writing something new for me to enjoy.

First Published UK: 11 January 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Talent for Murder – Andrew Wilson

Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

Andrew Wilson has come up with a brilliant premise for this novel based on Agatha Christie’s disappearance in December 1926 and executed it with aplomb!

It is all too easy for these types of books, of which I’ve read a few, to come across as cheesy, perhaps because the author imagines that what we know about the famous person concerned will hold our interest through sketchy characterisation. Andrew Wilson has created his Agatha Christie as a strong, intelligent woman who has found herself backed into a corner as she tries desperately to protect her errant husband, she still loves him dearly despite the fact that she knows he is having an affair, and her young daughter. Despite that it took me a couple of chapters before I was convinced…

First to the facts; Agatha’s car was found with a suitcase of clothes and her driver’s licence at Newlands Corner near Guildford in Surrey. She’d left her house, Styles in Berkshire with a note to her housekeeper saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her husband, Archie Christie had chosen to spend the weekend at his friend’s house in Godalming in Surrey, at a party which his mistress Nancy Neele was attending. But despite a massive man-hunt nothing else was known until Agatha was found ten days later in a hotel in Harrogate where she’d registered as Mrs Teresa Neele from Cape Town. Andrew Wilson has cleverly plotted around these facts so much so that at before long I had to remind myself this was fiction.

To add authenticity the book starts with a meeting between the man who is determined to use Agatha for her own advantage. She is well-known for writing murder mysteries, even if she is struggling with her latest novel, and he wants to use this knowledge for his own purposes.

The reader is allowed inside the head of the man trying to hoodwink Agatha and he is definitely one bad guy, I’d go as far to say that he is one of the creepiest protagonists of all time, and his confident that he’s outwitted Agatha, but is he right? To balance out the creepiness we have an eye on the official investigation into her disappearance led by Superintendent William Kenward with particularly satisfying moments when he puts Archie on the spot about his real feelings for Agatha, and Nancy with Archie being outed as the philanderer he was!

Not only do we have some fab characters that could have stepped from one of her own novels, we are exposed to her knowledge of poisons the settings used are the perfect backdrop to this dark yet utterly enjoyable novel along with references to the early works completed at the time.

With sublime plotting to seal the deal A Talent For Murder gets the thumbs up from this reader for a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I fully admit I approached with a sense of fun because of course I knew that Agatha would be alright in the end, but as to the rest of the cast? Well you’ll have to read A Talent For Murder to find out for yourself.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book as part of the review panel for Lovereading and a shorter version of this review will appears on their site.

 

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Historical
Amazon UK
Amazon US