The Rapunzel Act

Written by Abi Silver

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.

The Rapunzel Act
Lightning Books
RRP: £8.99
Released: April 15 2021

This book, the fourth in Silver’s fairy-tale series of crime novels, has its fingers hovering over quite a few hot-button issues. In the wrong hands this would cue, most times, a clunky grab-bag of views and opinions that would weigh down an otherwise sprightly tale of ill deeds committed and avenged.

Under Silver’s assured hand, however, Rapunzel manages to address perceptions of trans women, the morality of eco-warriors and the wisdom of television airing of ongoing court trials without falling over itself.

The story begins with the discovery of the dead body of perky morning-show host Rosie Harper, a sort of younger Lorraine Kelly of sorts. Suspicion, naturally, falls on her ex-husband (or should that be ex-wife) Debbie (used to be Danny) Mallard. Following a high-powered career in football, both as a player and a coach, Mallard is living his female life as a coach to younger soccer enthusiasts. Police waste no time charging him/her with the murder of his ex-wife, who had been bludgeoned with one of her TV awards. Mallard of course pleads innocence despite the discovery of one of her motorbike gloves in the marital garden (And yes, Silver does nod to a case in the US involving a Heisman Trophy winner. You may have heard of it.)

Series regulars Judith Burton and Constance Lamb take on Mallard’s defence. Over the months between commission of crime and trial on the facts, other suspects emerge from the shadows. These include Nicki Smith, an eco-terrorist in possession of a beef against Harper. Also giving the cops pause are Jason Fenwick, Harper’s co-host on the breakfast show, and even the victim’s brother Ellis. Amid all the social foment about this she-used-to-be-a-he wife-killer another social development crops up in the form of a new station akin to Court TV in the US. Along with the characters, the reader is asked to judge if the tv journalists are affecting the course of justice simply by airing it in real time. And in a not so coincidental twist, Burton knows the new channel’s top lawyer turned reporter, the aptly named Andy Chambers. 

It is nice to have a dynamic all-female duo in the courtroom rather than on the beat. Where a Scott and a Bailey can rely on action to propel their relationship, Burton and Lamb speak their dynamics. A few bits of clunky dialogue aside, the pairing works and you do a get a sense of a relationship that has developed over three previous outings (Pinocchio, Cinderella and Aladdin). The two women are not besties and not always in each other’s hair or life, which is a refreshing change and I am guessing more realistic than when lawyers always seem to be hand-in-glove (sorry!).

We do not find out where Rapunzel fits in until the end. But if you have young children and are familiar with Tangled, you might cotton on sooner.

All in all, a nice London-set whodunnit.

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