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Anatomy of a Scandal


Anatomy of a Scandal

As I was reading Sarah Vaughan's ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, I kept thinking that there could not be a more timely story that speaks to serious issues that seem to be in our headlines on a daily basis. On the one hand, this is a sharp legal thriller with courtroom scenes that at times rival some of the best moments John Grisham has brought us. At the heart of the novel, though, is the scandalous tale of a British husband and father who may or may not be a serial abuser of women.

In order to trace that timeline, Vaughan has the narrative jump back and forth between current day and 1992-93. We get to experience some of the principal characters in both time frames to drop a trail of bread crumbs that may lead us to the true answers as to what really happened. Novels with revolving timelines and chapters told from the focus of different characters seem to be all the rage these days --- thank you, GONE GIRL --- and Vaughan uses that schematic deftly. The end result is a creepy thriller that will keep you guessing right up to the final chapters.

"ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL proves to be a clever novel, one that deserves to be read and talked about openly due to the relevant nature of the serious and sensitive subject matter."

If there is a protagonist to name here, it would have to be Sophie. She is the wife of the accused serial rapist, James, and initially the character who elicits the most sympathy from the reader. She does not necessarily lead a life with blinders on, but she has slipped into a cocoon of safety, believing that her family of four made for a perfect life and that all would be well. She never thought of her husband as someone who not only could lie to her but possibly could have been leading a secret life completely unbeknownst to her.

The problem is that James works for the British government as a top aide to the Prime Minister. When he is accused of sexual harassment and rape by a co-worker, it has the potential not only to seriously damage his family life but also to bring scandal down on their government. Things quickly lead to a high-profile court case with the newspapers and tabloids providing blow-by-blow details and speculation all along the way. It is so damaging that Sophie herself refuses to be present at the trial --- a move that is extremely clever by the author but one that does not make James' defense counsel very happy.

The affair between James and Olivia is smeared all over the media, and Sophie cannot seem to escape it. Regardless of the trial’s outcome, which I will not reveal here, she may never be able to trust or look at James the same way again. When the novel jumps back to the college days of the characters in the early ’90s, we see a different, more innocent version of Sophie. In addition, the spotlight shifts to two of her classmates, Holly and Ali, with occasional chapters presented from their points of view. We also get to see the burgeoning love affair between Sophie and James, as well as a glimpse into who James may or may not really be.

As the trial takes off, we see the focus shift to the prosecutor. Kate is a driven woman who seems to be taking this case much more seriously than others she has prosecuted, as she sees an opportunity to make a name for herself by revealing the dark side of a top-ranking member of the British government. It is inevitable that everything will come to a boil and eventually intertwine all of these principal characters in a way you will not see coming.

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL proves to be a clever novel, one that deserves to be read and talked about openly due to the relevant nature of the serious and sensitive subject matter.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 25, 2018

Anatomy of a Scandal
by Sarah Vaughan

  • Publication Date: October 2, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501172174
  • ISBN-13: 9781501172175