Monday, 13 December 2010

The Eighth Deadly Sin


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.

9 comments:

seana said...

It sounds quite intriguing. And of course we all know that the sleazy lawyer is a type found only in literature...

Deb said...

I very much enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago--in part because, as I was reading, I truly didn't know where the story was going. After that, I sought out a few other Mann books and, while I enjoyed them, I can't say that any lived up to the complex plotting and unexpected twists of THE EIGHTH DEADLY SIN.

Dean James said...

I've not read this particular book by Mann, but I have read a number of her other books. Mrs. Knox's Profession comes to mind as an excellent suspense novel, and I very much enjoyed the Tamara Hoyland novels, with their archaeological connections.

Dorte H said...

... whereas all these mysterious women are gospel truth! Hehe.

(perhaps I should add that this is a continuation of Seana´s comment).

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, everyone. Jessica Mann is an interesting writer and I'll say more about her work in the future.

aguja said...

This one is going on my 'to buy' list!

Thank you for the review, Martin.

Jessica Mann said...

After reading these kind words I then re-read the book, for the first time in decades. Something of a shock! Having spent my whole career saying that authors chose the crime fiction genre in order NOT to write autobiography, and because they need a barrier between themselves and self-revelation, I can see in retrospect that this book (and actually several others of mine) are simply full of their author. (Though I didn't have an affair with a solicitor!) It would be interesting to read your view of crime fiction as autobiographical fiction, Martin. Meanwhile, thank you very much for what you have written.

Martin Edwards said...

Great to hear from you, Jessica, and I shall certainly adopt your suggestion.

Tim said...

An intriguing review, and now that I've started reading the book, also an intriguing book. Thanks for a good tip Martin.