London, 1974. Richard John Bingham, known better as Lucky Lord Lucan, has been wed to his wife, Veronica, for about ten years. Desperate to escape the strictures of his marriage, Lucan hatches a plan to murder Veronica at their home in Belgravia then dump her body in the English Channel. Driven by a skewered sense of belief that he is doing it for the good of his three children, Lucan considers the plan foolproof, even hiring a local henchman to carry out the brutal deed.
The plan is as desperate as it is audacious,
and everything goes wrong when his childrenís nanny, poor Sandra Rivett, is hammered to death instead. Lucanís house of cards has fallen far differently than he ever expected,
and from here, Colesí clever recreation of events - with typical traces of conceit and upper-class Etonian self-aggrandizement - make Lucanís narrative chilling and compelling.
After leaving his friend Susan Maxwell-Scottís house in Uckfield, Lucan tells of his
Ford Corsair, found abandoned at Newhaven, the bloodstain inside along with the piece of bandaged lead piping
- unstained but very similar to the one found in the murder house - and of his efforts to sink his beloved boat.
Even more outrageous is his retelling of how he was protected by his fellow cronies at the Clermont Club, particularly
by his best friend, Apsers, a millionaire gambler and big-hitter who shelters him in the basement of his home in a dark airless, windowless bunker for nearly four months.
A desperate man on the run, haunted by the bloodied ghost of Sandra, Coles creates an alternative life for Lucan: his journey to Goa, India, via a cramped container
full of the fug of stale air in the storage hold of a cargo ship, and of his arch-nemesis, Jimmy Goldsmith, who dispatches him with all the indifference of ďa schoolboy stamping a spider.Ē It is Jimmy who eventually introduces him to hashish, which becomes a blueprint for the
growth of Lucanís full-blown heroin addiction.
Drifting between fact, fiction, and fairy tale, Coles skillfully manipulates the events leading up to Lucanís crime and his disappearance while morbidly penetrating the manís deepest fears and regrets. We feel his remorse at Sandraís death, the awful sight of her tiny body tucked into a U.S. mailbag, his internal agonies as an outcast, his disappointment at never being able to see his three children again, and his drug-fuelled ramblings as he goes on the run through India, determined to escape the manipulations of Jimmy Goldsmith.
Throughout, Coles manipulates his complex protagonist, creating a cadaverous portrait of a murderer and coward who seems to
seek some kind of reparation for his actions. During the course of the story, Lucan battles with his demons to find redemption, determined to do the best he can under the circumstances given the limited abilities at his disposal.