Jessica Mann is a British writer I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, and I’m surprised her work is not more widely discussed, as she has produced a number of very well-written novels over a long period. I’ve just read one that dates back to 1976, The Eighth Deadly Sin.
The set-up is intriguing. A sleazy lawyer (yes, believe it or not, they do exist!) meets an attractive woman at a party and they begin an affair. But she conceals her true identity from him. Gradually, his lust turns to love, but she doesn’t reciprocate. When he runs into significant financial trouble, he wants to turn to her for help. Trouble is, she has vanished, and his attempts to trace her run into a brick wall.
Then the viewpoint switches, and we start to see things from the woman’s perspective. And it becomes clear that Mann’s real preoccupation is not so much to do with the mystery of who the woman is, but the question of how she can escape from what stifles her in her everyday life. The rather unappealing and unfortunate lawyer fades increasingly into the background even though he remains, in a sense, pivotal to the plot.
There are crimes, a mystery, and ultimately a murder and a trial in this story, yet it is far removed from a conventional crime novel. If you are interested in the way women think and behave - and who is not? - I’d say that you are likely to find this unusual book worth tracking down. There aren’t too many fireworks, but the story-line does provoke thought.