Title: Anatomy of a Scandal
Author(s): Sarah Vaughan
Publisher: Atria / Emily Bestler Books
Original Release Date: January 23rd 2018
Genre(s): Legal Thriller, Mystery Thriller
Sarah Vaughan takes on a timely and paramount matter in Anatomy of a Scandal as she takes out her scalpel in an attempt to meticulously examine themes of sexual assault, consent and power. After having dipped her toes in chick lit (The Art of Baking Blind) and historical fiction (The Farm at the Edge of the World), this courtroom thriller will give fans of mystery thrillers something to devour in the dark corners of their bed.
A minister in the House of Commons, James Whitehouse, is a loving husband to Sophie and a father of two children. It is on a dark and cloudy day that he is accused of a spineless crime that will undoubtedly stay attached onto his reputation as an elite of society for the rest of his life. A stigma like this could however not be left unchallenged as his case is brought into court to shut down the alleged accusations of rape. However, Kate Woodcroft, a criminal barrister, is assigned as the prosecutor in order to take on the near-impossible task of making it all stick and have James Whitehouse go down as a rapist. Is an innocent man going to down for a crime he never committed? Is rapist going to be released for a crime he did commit?
Anatomy of a Scandal is a timely exploration of the abuse on women that men in power have relentlessly inflicted upon thanks to their high status in society. This novel couldn’t have been released at a more relevant period as we are bombarded with celebrities and elites who are having their skeletons dragged out of their closets thanks to viral online movements that drenched #MeToo with a whole new political and social definition. Throughout this story, the complexity of cases regarding sexual abuse is highlighted in neon colours as Sarah Vaughan dots every i’s and crosses every t’s on the matter at hand.
A lot of this story helps understand how these cases are often riddled with he-said-she-said and that swaying a jury to one side or the other isn’t a question of evidence anymore. Everything lies in political correctness and in who, between the accused and the victim, can show the most conviction in their facts or lies. I have to give all my respect to Sarah Vaughan in successfully laying out every possible angle to these types of case. She not only nails the point of view of the victim and the accused, but she also brilliantly covers the angle of the wife of the accused, the prosecutor and the defendant.
It is however worth mentioning that I had issues with the pacing as the story kicks off at an atrociously slow pace where I had a slippery grip on the mystery. It also didn’t help that there was an extra point of view integrated within the narrative that seemed to come out of the blue for which I quickly knew what its purpose was. It’s safe to say that the thrill was almost non-existent until the story stepped foot into the court. While having Kate’s thought process being told rather than shown was truly annoying because of her sharp and impenetrable confidence in her self (to the extent of sometimes seeming pretentious), it did help however help in supporting the implication of the title of the book. I couldn’t connect with any characters at all, but I found interest in the way the themes were handled by the author.
Anatomy of a Scandal also explores the very idea of how incorrectly men interpret so-called signals; what we so often refer to mixed messages. The story doesn’t shy in analyzing every facet of rape and to condemn the idea that it is possible for men to justify rape by assuming that they know what a women wanted or not before and during an act. The author’s understanding of how preposterous it is for women to blame themselves when they go through these horrific events is also brilliantly conveyed. Besides the story’s slow-pace and its character-driven storyline, this is a fantastic case that might trigger some, but might also enlighten others on the much needed progress that the world needs on the themes delved into by Sarah Vaughan in Anatomy of a Scandal.
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆
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