Review

Almost A Crime

by Penny Vincenzi



For years, Penny Vincenzi has been a bestselling author of huge
blockbuster novels in her native England. Recently, the Overlook
Press has brought Vincenzi's talent to the United States with the
publication of her popular Spoils of Time trilogy, gaining
her fans on this side of the Atlantic as well. Now Overlook is
releasing some of Vincenzi's other smash hits for her new American
fans, starting with ALMOST A CRIME, which was originally published
in the United Kingdom in 1999.


The central character of ALMOST A CRIME is Octavia Fleming, mother
of three and wife to Tom Fleming. The two of them have the textbook
"power marriage," written up in national newspapers under the
heading "Combine and Rule." Octavia runs a charity consulting
group, procuring funds and providing publicity for charity groups.
Tom is the co-founder of a political lobbying firm. At the novel's
opening, readers see how the two combine their successful careers
in ways that are mutually beneficial for themselves --- and for
their companies. Sometimes, though, Tom's dubious business scruples
run afoul of Octavia's moral sensibilities, such as when Tom urges
Octavia to use her charity connections to raise support for a new
development (run by one of Tom's clients) set to be built in a
wilderness area.


These professional disagreements are merely window dressing for
their deeper personal problems, which quickly come to a crisis. Tom
has always felt a bit cowed by Octavia's hugely successful father,
who has never made a secret of his disapproval of Tom. Both Tom and
Octavia feel like they never have enough time to spend with their
children, let alone with each other --- at least without clients
around. But, to make matters far worse, Octavia soon learns that
Tom has been having an affair.


Devastated by her discovery, Octavia resorts to personal and
professional revenge. She makes a very public statement against one
of Tom's biggest clients and begins her own relationship with a
member of parliament, a man who is Tom's polar opposite in
politics, manner and attitude. Octavia also confides in her
closest, oldest friend Louise, who is quietly nursing her own grief
--- and might be hiding more than a few secrets of her own.


Octavia's biggest dilemma is whether to pursue a divorce from Tom.
If she were anyone but the female half of the country's premier
"power couple," the choice would be easy. But, for someone like
Octavia Fleming, the decision is far more complicated: "Their
marriage would not be broken neatly and cleanly, nobody's was of
course, but theirs would be a multiple fracture, more messily
painful even than most, crossing as they constantly did the lines
of public and private life. They would become not only single
people, but famously unsuccessful ones, would no longer
effortlessly straddle two worlds, but would scarcely stand on the
top of one; their association and their marriage would be no longer
powerful, it would be a public as well as a private failure." Not
even Octavia, though, recognizes the repercussions the end of her
marriage could have on everyone around her --- friends, family and
business associates alike.


It's this ever-widening circle that Vincenzi so skillfully
encompasses in ALMOST A CRIME. As in her previous novels, she
practically defines the term "page turner," as she shifts rapidly
from subplot to subplot, from character to character, effectively
discouraging readers from putting down the book until they find out
what happens next. From Octavia's father, his mistress and her
children, to Octavia's friend Louise and her husband, Vincenzi
deftly moves among her characters over the course of one eventful
summer, leading up to the news of Princess Diana's death, which
affects all the characters in one way or another.


ALMOST A CRIME may be a slight disappointment to readers who first
met Vincenzi through the Spoils of Time trilogy, since it
lacks the sweeping epic scope and probing character development
that marked those magnificent novels. However, it should still
contain enough characters, plot twists and subplots to satisfy most
--- in fact, some American readers might be rather perplexed by the
references to British politics, class distinctions and school
systems. Nevertheless, Vincenzi's latest novel to cross the pond is
likely to solidify her reputation for writing ambitious, glamorous
novels that take readers deep into their characters' fascinating
lives.


   














Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 22, 2010

Almost A Crime
by Penny Vincenzi

  • Publication Date: November 16, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 158567852X
  • ISBN-13: 9781585678525