Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McCrum, former editorial director at Faber in London and now the literary editor of the Observer, has written a number of novels that, while gaining respect for their polished professionalism, have not quite ignited the imagination of readers. Suspicion is not likely to be an exception. It is the story of Julian Whyte, one of those cultured, self-possessed loners peculiar to English fiction who seem simultaneously full of self-knowledge and ennui and who, in their compulsion to make something happen in their lives, bring about disastrous consequences. Julian is a lawyer, the coroner in a small English village, who has made a small, comfortable, passionless niche for himself. Into his life one day comes his scapegrace elder brother, Raymond, who many years ago, as a flamboyant Communist, had disgraced the family by going off to East Germany, where he subsequently lived as a party apparatchik of some substance. Now, with Communism in ruins, he has come home, with his striking young German wife, Kristina, to reclaim his English roots. Reluctantly, Julian makes room for them in his life and then, with a thrill of discovery, finds himself falling for Kristina. How this improbable trio work out their fates, with disastrous results, is the burden of McCrum's story. It is smoothly written, never tedious but never exactly surprising eitherDa literate thriller that, if it has aspirations beyond that, does not achieve them. (Mar.)
The editorial director of Faber & Faber and coauthor (with Robert MacNeil) of the best-selling The Story of English, McCrum takes politics to a personal level in this story of a reserved British lawyer in small-town Mansfield whose brother defected to East Germany in his youth. Julian Whyte is startled when his brother, Raymond, announces he will return with his German wife to pass his final days with the family he so vociferously rejected in his firebrand youth, but he is more than delighted with wife Kristina. Julian takes advantage of the evident strain between Raymond and Kristina and plunges into an affair with his sister-in-law. Meanwhile, everyone is wondering about Raymond's Communist past. Was he, indeed, an informer for the Stasi? The truth comes out eventually, and it is not terribly surprising. This is a dark story, reasonably well told except for some patches of awkward writing, but Julian's moral obtuseness and the brutal act that ends the book leave a bad taste in the reader's mouth. For larger thriller/ political collections.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Lust and murder lurk in the heart of a mild-mannered official living a quiet life in the south of England, in McCrum's (Jubilee, 1994, etc.) latest thriller, a work no more credible than its predecessors.
Julian Whyte has led a flawlessly dignified existence. He is above reproach in his job as his district's coroner, a perpetually eligible bachelor, and a pillar of his community. Now, he welcomes news of his older brother Raymond's return with his family from former East Germany, where he had long taught at a university, upholding Marxist ideals. But Raymond arrives under a cloud: He is depressed, his beautiful German wife is unhappy, and rumors of his role as a Stasi informer grow more specific with the passing of the seasons. Meanwhile, Julian takes quite a shine to Raymond's wife Kristina. She begins to warm to him, too, and it isn't long before they're doing the nasty at every available opportunity, a situation that Raymond accepts in his typically depressed manner. He is bitter and vengeful enough, however, to tell Julian that Kristina doesn't really love either of them: She cares only for a young German poet she'd known in East Berlin. Raymond ended the affair by framing the poet, watching calmly as he was arrested and imprisoned. In time, Kristina's ardor toward Julian cools, as her husband had predicted. Then, suddenly, out of the new Germany comes the old lover, intent on taking her back to her homeland; Julian, desperate to make her stay even though he knows she wants to go, takes charge in a masterfuland largely implausiblefashion, manipulating both his poor, hapless brother and the cocksure lover into a fateful, fatal encounter.
McCrum's own fatal flaw remains: The underpinnings of the plot are weakened by unanswered questions and dodges that, however artful, leave the reader increasingly unwilling to go along.