Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Anatomy of a Scandal

Summary: An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. 

What would she think, if she knew the truth? -- Atria/Emily Bestler

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sarah Vaughan is a suspense-filled courtroom drama that delves into the complex issue of rape. It's a timely novel that asks some difficult questions about consent and rape; and it also has a few twists thrown in for fans of mysteries. This book has some amazing reviews (including starred ones!); and while I liked it, I'm not entirely sure I loved it.

In ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, Sophie, a wealthy woman who seemingly has it all finds her life turned upside-down. She is married to James, a loving father and a successful man who is a junior minister in the British Home Office, and mother to two great kids. However, when James comes home late one night and tells her he's been having an affair with his assistant Olivia, she's devastated. To make matters worse, a few days later James is arrested and Olivia claims that he has raped her.

Kate is the barrister who takes on the prosecution of James. She's considered an expert in prosecuting sex crimes but that hasn't come without its toll. She's 41, divorced and pretty much a workaholic... and she's determined that justice be served to James. While Kate always takes her job seriously, it almost seems as if this crime is personal to her.

This novel takes readers through the courtroom drama that is a bit of a he said/she said; however, it also touches upon some serious issues including the debate between what's consent and what's rape. The story is told through the eyes of Sophie, Kate and James; and it's interesting to see how the story unfolds. In addition, there are flashbacks to Sophie and James' college days when a tragedy occurred that has formed a life-long bond between James and his best friend and current Prime Minister.

Tensions rise throughout the story between all of the characters, and a surprising twist is revealed... although I didn't think it was much of a surprise. In fact, I wouldn't say that the mystery or suspense aspects of this novel are its strong points. Rather, I think the writing and the character development  are the strengths. The mystery of the rape was almost secondary to what happened in the past, and I think the book explored some serious and timely issues (including a political scandal) that will cause readers to think.

Having said that, ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL would make an outstanding book club selection. There is a reading guide with fourteen interesting questions. Some of the themes your group might want to discuss include trust, honestly, secrets, class structure, and choices.

I enjoyed and appreciated ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL and I do think fans of courtroom dramas and literary suspense will enjoy it.

I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds very relevant - I think I'll give it a try even though you didn't love it.

Kim@Time2Read said...

This one sounds interesting! Great review