Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal is an absorbing, polished mystery, with ‘bestseller’ written all over it. A high-profile marriage lies at the heart of this engrossing tale told by a former political correspondent who knows what’s at stake in the corridors of power – and the secrets that can lurk within even the best marriages.
Can we ever truly know anyone else? This is the disturbing question at the centre of a twisting, turning plot about a scandal that will rock Westminster, and the two women who are caught up in it.
In a story that could easily be ripped from the headlines, a husband, who is a handsome British politician and also the PM’s oldest, closest friend, is accused of a terrible crime. His wife Sophie is sure that James is innocent and desperately tries to protect her beloved family from lies that might ruin them. Kate, the barrister who will prosecute the case, is just as certain that James is guilty and determined to see that justice is done, goes after him.
More than anything else, Sophie wants to believe he’s innocent. She adores James. Watching him leave with their son and daughter one Friday morning, ‘she feels a stab of love so fierce she pauses on the stairs just to drink in the tableau of the three of them together.’
But to Sophie’s horror, as a highly public and incisive court proceedings begins, the intimacies of their relationship are horribly exposed and left in tatters. An unpredictable, heart-pounding court thriller unfolds, one that paints a fascinating portrait of marriage and explores the power of memories to haunt us.
In Sophie’s mind, James is a loving father and charismatic, successful gentleman in the public service. When he comes home from work one evening to confess that he’s been having a scandalous five-month affair with his parliamentary researcher, Olivia Lytton, she is devastated.
Although deep in her heart she forgives her husband’s betrayal, the media storm that explodes in the scandal’s aftermath is unrelenting – and unforgiving.
Kate Woodcroft is a highly skilled lawyer who specialises in prosecuting sexual crimes. She’s forty-one years old, divorced, childless, and exceptionally driven.
Kate watches the media frenzy rise to melting point and then all of a sudden disappear altogether. Something’s not right. She knows it. Anybody else in his position accused of having an affair with an office junior would have been persecuted mercilessly, especially by the tabloids.
Then the news breaks that Olivia Lytton has alleged she was raped. Kate is given the job of prosecuting James and determined to exact justice, attempts to charge through all the smokescreens set up to obfuscate the truth.
This is a stylish suspense novel that explores questions of privilege, power, and the perception of truth which sometimes depends on who’s telling the story. Inspired by Sarah Vaughan’s experience as a news reporter and political correspondent, as well as her time as a student at Oxford, she writes with the cadences of a thriller and the cleverness of a poet. Her timing’s not bad either, with her book’s release coinciding with the Weinstein scandal and the public unmasking of other flagrant, high profile offenders.
A multi-layered read that will provoke debate and conversation – so perfect for book clubs and a glass of vino – Anatomy of a Scandal will be lapped up by fans of a good court-room drama, as well as those who simply enjoy a ripping good mystery.
Savvy and gripping, Anatomy of a Scandal is one classy page-turner. Don’t miss it.
“Magnificent” – Marian Keyes.
About the author
Sarah Vaughan is a former journalist who lives in Cambridge, England with her husband, two children, a geriatric cat and puppy. Anatomy of a Scandal is her debut book. She spent 11 years on The Guardian working as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent. Long before that Vaughan read English at Oxford. ‘Reading Beowulf may not have helped me become a novelist but reading and thinking about writing for three years undoubtedly did.’