A Double Life
Flynn Berry
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Buy *A Double Life* by Flynn Berryonline

A Double Life
Flynn Berry
272 pages
July 2018
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In a book about the dynamics of power and class and those who walk through society with impunity a sense of entitlement, Berry fictionalizes the story of Lord Lucan, who hatched a plan to murder his wife at their home in Belgravia then dump her body in the English Channel. Driven by a skewed 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, but everything goes wrong when his children's nanny is hammered to death instead.

It's quite an experience to live in the mind of Claire, a 34-year-old London doctor. Dark and conflicted, Claire is also haunted by the fact that her father, Lord Colin Spenser--now missing for twenty-six years--had planned to murder Faye, her mother. Claire can't srise above her fury, even after DI Louisa Tiernan tells Claire that there has been a sighting him Namibia and that they're currently coordinating with Interpol. She knows her father's a hedonist; even now he's somewhere enjoying himself. What happened that night of the party was the fulcrum for the violence inflicted on Faye.

Luckily, Faye kept diaries on and off from when she was a teenager until she died. Now Claire is able to reconstruct the events leading up to that terrible night when Faye was hospitalized and Claire's nanny, Emma, was bludgeoned to death. Claire has done her research; there's plenty of material. The detectives know a lot about her family, including that Colin humiliated himself as a drunk 17-year-old. He was initially warm and straightforward but later turned cold and distant after he took Claire to the mansion of Ashdown Hall for a weekend and introduced her to his influential friends: James, Sam, Orla and Rose.

There was never a trial for Colin. And although there was a coroner's inquest to determine the circumstances of Emma's death, Rose James and Sam proceeded to sully Faye's reputation by giving press interviews saying she was sick. According to them, she'd hired someone to kill Emma and frame Colin. Claire is convinced they covered for her father after his car was found abandoned by Newhaven near the English Channel. Claire's instincts begin to outweigh her sadness. She begins her own investigation, putting together preliminary evidence, stalking James for three months one summer after medical school, and later, insinuating herself into the life of his daughter, Alice. Claire is certain the key to unlocking the whereabouts of her father is through Alice: "He couldn't have planned a murder I don't think, without that confidence. He thought he would get away with it."

Berry's story flows from Claire's troubled psyche over Faye's disturbed marriage and Claire's worries over her brother, Robbie, who has spent his life struggling with drug addiction. Claire blames herself for Robbie's illness. She remains haunted by those first days afterwards in London, when she didn't even know that her father was a suspect: "I know he didn't jump. His friends wouldn't have risked so much to protect him unless they knew he was alive." In search of serenity, Faye moves her family to Crail, a small village on the east coast of Scotland. Here she attempts to eke out an existence far from the media's watchful eye. Only later does Claire move back to London and live in the same city as her father's friends and the officers who originally investigated him.

Far from London's sooty surfaces and the storms that roll in from the Firth of Forth, Claire desperately tries to make up reasons for what her father did: perhaps he'd taken something on that night, or had a "psychotic break." Perhaps the real version of him was the one Claire had known and not the version who came into her house that night. She has wanted to know his motive for so many years. He might have gone to prison, along with Sam, James, and the rest of their club--the members of Parliament, the bankers and the judges. Steamrolling toward an eventual confrontation, Claire pieces it all together from her memories, flashbacks, and Faye's half-broken dreams. Claire no longer feels like she's part of the mystery connected to her father.

There's a relief in knowing the truth as the mystery finally drops into place: a carefully calibrated crime of secrets so heavily weighted that no one will talk. Berry balances real drama against Claire's mission of finding justice for her mother. In the process, Claire exposes an anxious, unstoppable monster who on that dark and terrible night attempted to steal everything from her.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Michael Leonard, 2018
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