A magnificent, completely absorbing novel, revolving around a high society court case. A British Dominic Dunne. A beautiful, tempestuous girl disappears from her family's Scottish estate after her brilliant birthday ball. Neither she nor her body are discovered. Her parents -- the icon and celebrated pop star, Michael Gresham, and his wife, a stylish American heiress -- employ private detectives and offer rewards but find nothing, until a local serial killer confesses to the murder. In the neighbouring estate lives Ivar Gatehouse, government spokesman in the House of Lords, famous for his wealth, ancient title and social brilliance, with his fragile painter wife and four near adult children. Both familes live in almost feudal splendour. Celebrated in Hello! and society pages, their worlds are detached, above, different from ours: they live according to other people's rules. But twenty years later, Earl Gatehouse is in Dumfries County Court on trial for murder and the witness on whom the Crown's case will rely is Lucy Diamond, a one-time friend of his youngest daughter, an outsider to their privileged world, who had come to stay on the summer of the birthday ball.
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Julia Hamilton was brought up in Scotland and now lives in London with her two daughters. Her previous novels include After Flora, A Good Catholic and A Pillar of Society.From Publishers Weekly:
Sex, secrets and scandals make a stylish mix in Hamilton's novel, a winning hybrid of suspenseful entertainment and literary work. Set in late 1970s England and Scotland, the narrative opens with wealthy, well-connected Earl Gatehouse on trial for the murder, 20 years earlier, of teenage neighbor Katie Gresham, the only child of Scottish pop star Michael Gresham and his American wife, Pauline. The plot unfolds in backstory, through the memories of narrator Lucy Diamond, who is 15 when she first meets anorexic hell-raiser Lady Sarah Anwoth at an exclusive all-girls school where Lucy's mother is the housemistress. Sarah is the troubled third daughter of the womanizing Gatehouse and his glamorous younger wife. Lucy is visiting the Gatehouse family at the time of Katie Gresham's disappearance, and she stumbles on some tawdryDand dangerousDsecrets. With suave expertise, Hamilton taps into middle-class curiosity about how the privileged live. An outsider (because she is Jewish and not rich), Lucy is a witty and opinionated observer, whose voice functions as a narrative undertow, pulling the reader deep into the world of the British aristocracy, some of whom hold themselves above the law. As an unwitting player in elite power struggles, Lucy tries to forget the things she wasn't meant to see, and she doesn't realize until two decades later that she might have to bend the rules in order to survive. Now a celebrity divorce lawyer carrying on an adulterous affair with Sarah's brother, she reluctantly becomes the prosecution's chief witness at the trial. To Hamilton's credit, she wraps up the story with a realistic assessment of the failings of British justice in a society still bound by class distinctions. (Nov.)
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