APPLE TREE YARD

Written by Louise Doughty

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.


APPLE TREE YARD
Faber and Faber
RRP: £7.99
Released: 2nd January 2014
Pbk

There’s a flourishing revival of domestic psycho thrillers, possibly kicked off by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and S.J.Watson’s weird but compelling Before I Go to Sleep and, more recently, The Silent Wife by A.S.A.Harrison. Now Louise Doughty has produced a page-turning addition in Apple Tree Yard.

We don’t find out the name of the female narrator until late in the action but, from the start, we know she’s in trouble. She and another unidentified figure are standing trial for a not yet specified crime. She has status as a genetic scientist, one respected enough to give evidence to parliamentary committees, and it’s in the Palace of Westminster that her life has taken a turn which is at first thrilling and then disastrous after she’s picked up by a man who has an intimate knowledge of the building and, very soon, of her in the unlikely setting of in a chapel crypt. The stranger seems to be a spook  -  how else to explain his taste for spycraft, his familiarity with the centre of government?  -  and the two embark on an affair in which secrecy is vital. The woman’s husband is affable and ignorant. The stranger’s wife is out of the picture. The danger comes from an unexpected source, and the consequences are violent and lead ultimately to the Old Bailey. 

We’re drip-fed information in Apple Tree Yard and happy to be kept in the half-dark because Louise Doughty organises the narrative so skilfully. The backbone of the book is the Old Bailey trial, and the twists and turns of that process, as good as anything in Grisham or Connelly. But Doughty brings a particular perspective to a story which highlights the difference in the way men and women are treated, at work, under the law, not in a preachy style but in one that's subtle and follows naturally from the plot.

Above all, Apple Tree Yard is a gripping read and one of the best psychological and legal thrillers I’ve come across in a long time.     

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