A Great Book Recommendation


The Hidden LegacyThis recommendation comes from Cleo, who blogs at Cleopatra Loves Books

The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett


Although I never ‘knew’ Maxine, all the tributes point towards her being a lover of ‘intelligent’ crime fiction and in my opinion this book, a debut novel, fits that phrase exactly. The Hidden Legacy doesn’t just have excellent plotting, it is one of those books that ask the big ‘moral’ questions wrapped up in a story that touches on some big issues.

With the action opening with a heinous crime committed  in a school playground in the city of Gloucester in 1966 in one of the most ‘grab-you-by-the-throat’ scenes I’ve ever read you could be forgiven for thinking that this book is all about the action, you’d be wrong. Not that there isn’t plenty of action, but this book is one of those that will make you think, let you decide whereabouts on the line of justice do you stand? Are some of the characters actions justifiable, at least to some degree, once the entire picture has been drawn?

The Hidden Legacy’s past may begin in the sixties but all that happened then is bought to life by a solicitor’s letter hailing from Cheltenham straight into the hands of Ellen Sutherland in West Sussex. She is the beneficiary of an unknown Eudora Nash and with no way of finding out who Eudora is Ellen squeezes in a trip to Cheltenham to find out. The mystery only deepens when she is door-stepped by the wonderfully portrayed journalist, Andrew O’Halloran. Ellen pleased to find the trip hasn’t been a total waste of time, she after all in possession of a fine legacy and so returns to her home, and her best friend Kate and the two women start investigating the past. Someone must know why Eudora left her a cottage?

With the story set in the sixties and the life of the child perpetrator struggle into adult-hood with the newspaper headlines ever-ready to be reproduced every time another child commits a crime the reader is invited to question should anyone be expected to pay for the rest of his life for an act committed as a child, however appalling that act may have been? This book simultaneously looks at the role of the media in such instances, does the need to sell papers really justify the hounding of that person, forever, no matter what consequences that has on him and everyone who knows him? Worthy yet difficult questions, I think you’ll agree.

This story touches on all the good things that make for an interesting read; secrets, past tragedies, along with their consequences, and the human need to protect others. It also tackles the far bigger issue of redemption and not in a way that is a common in a debut author, G.J. Minett puts these decisions firmly in his reader’s hands, in that this book, which is expertly-plotted, peopled by fascinating and complex characters, can be read as a story with a mystery to be solved, or you can ponder on where the moral rights and wrongs really lie. How far back in time do you have to go to get to the events that led to the tale that unfolds?

Despite the big questions the author never forgets that many of us read for pure entertainment so as well as having characters who are far from being two-dimensional the story is engaging, the switching of timelines and narratives expertly handled thereby giving the reader many different viewpoints as well as a sense of place and time, all topped off with a cracking good mystery.

Ever since I read this book, I have continued to ponder some of these questions and wonder how realistic some of the answers to them really are especially when emotions are added into the mix, so I hope that Maxine would agree with me that this belongs in the genre of intelligent crime and that she too would have appreciated the fine storytelling that backs up this story, which is one to make you think.




8 thoughts on “A Great Book Recommendation

  1. Interesting book I can see. Very though provoking too. Very timely in England at the present where on two separate occasions this month, two children are accused of murder of adults and another pair of the abduction of a toddler with intent to sexually abuse that toddler. Brings back memories of James Bulger and, going back further, Mary Bell – out of prison and living a normal life apparently with a new identity. Interesting topic. Thanks.

  2. Great review! Sounds interesting – it’s a never-ending question as to how much a child should pay for a crime. There’s no doubt that some will go on to be adult criminals but others could porbably be perfectly respectable adults if they only got the chance…

    • Yes, it is a perplexing question and in the case of crimes committed by children the media don’t tend to let us forget, even if they aren’t able to name them in some instances. This book doesn’t attempt to answer that but it does take a look at the consequences to all concerned.

  3. Great review Cleo, I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, not least because it’s a Bonnier Twenty7 books, and they have been producing some fantastic books. Plus Graham Minett is a very nice chap. Must get round to it – I’ve actually been carrying it around in my handbag for about a month!

    • Thank you Linda – it is a great read and was my introduction to Twenty7 books who I have enormous respect for, they have picked some amazing debuts to publish. And Graham is a lovely man – take it out of your handbag and read it!

  4. I read this book recently too, and I totally agree with your review – it’s a thought-provoking, entertaining, well-written crime book. I said in my blogpost – much better than many of the books that are worldwide bestsellers.

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