Claire is someone who appreciates fully the value of her privacy. There are many good reasons for that; the least of it being that Claire is not the name the London doctor was born with. Once the pampered children of two society parents, Claire and her brother Robbie were exposed to horrific violence at a young age after the murder of their nanny at the hands of their father and the attempted murder of their mother. Colin Spenser was never seen again after the attacks and his circle of dilettante friends soon after closed their ranks to exclude Claire and her family.
Never able to shed herself of the certainty that her aristocrat father is still alive and living the high life somewhere, Claire is now the only one looking out for her addict brother after the death of their mother. Inserting herself back into the sphere of her father’s friends is surprisingly easy, as Claire was last seen by them all as a child. It has been over thirty years and Claire is a child no longer and has an adult’s means and determination on her side.
It was only recently that I watched a documentary about Lord Lucan, of which A DOUBLE LIFE was inspired by, so the release of this book was timely for me. So armed, was very keen to read Berry’s fictionalized take on such an iconic disappearance story.
UK novelist Flynn Berry’s first book, UNDER THE HARROW was a standout of 2016 and her second outing A DOUBLE LIFE has much of that same bewitching appeal. Another captivating and intelligent narrator makes no apology for her decisions and none of her incisive observations can be dismissed as unimportant. It’s all relevant and this pared down style of narration means that we are left with only the essentials. Berry’s writing is careful, precise and measured. The lack of thrills and spills is not a detraction from the work; the incremental pressure has a slow build and there’s a satisfying reward for your wait which is all the more powerful when you realize it was perhaps never possible to have any other kind of resolution.
Very interested to see what this author will write next as her writing has filled a space in the thriller market that we perhaps didn’t know was there. We need more writers of this calibre who operate with such precision and avoid all the tropes that can be pulled into play when writing about a single female protagonist. A DOUBLE LIFE asks many questions of the reader to be mulled over past the read and its explorations of the aftermath of family violence are welcomed in a genre that can skip on past what it means for the victims not only to experience such horrors, but to live well beyond and survive them.