Disclaimer

Written by Renée Knight

Review written by Philip Gooden

His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.


Disclaimer
Doubleday
RRP: £12.99
Released: April 9, 2015
Hbk

‘This is a work of fiction’ says the disclaimer at the front of almost every novel, ‘and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.’ Out of this piece of boilerplate legalese planted at the front of most fiction, first-time novelist Renee Knight has constructed a whole narrative.

Catherine Ravenscroft is a documentary TV producer whose outwardly successful life is thrown into turmoil when she receives a novel titled The Perfect Stranger, privately printed and issued under the pseudonym of E J Preston. She reads the book in secret, desperate to keep its very existence away from her husband and her son, because it is far from being fiction.

Instead it describes a series of events which took place in Spain twenty years earlier, culminating in a death in which Catherine was involved. The only thing which is obvious straightaway is that Catherine has an enemy who believes that the best revenge is served very cold indeed, and the first half of Disclaimer traces her attempts to find out the identity of ‘E J Preston’ and then to deal with what is, in effect, an attempt to destroy her and her family.

Alternate chapters show things from the other side, from the perspective of the individual who is determined to persecute Catherine to death. Motivation and the full story of what happened twenty years before  -  or what appears to be the full story  -  only start to cohere around the middle of the book, and it is difficult to say more without giving away too much of what is a tightly wound plot. Renee Knight does an excellent job of keeping us in the dark and of holding our attention while reserving several twists for the later stages of the story, including one which more or less turns things upside down. Disclaimer is a claustrophobic psychological mystery, with not much sense of life going on outside the self-absorbed existences of the handful of principal characters, but it builds up powerfully and is a highly readable addition to the new vogue for domestic noir.

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