Suspicion: A Novel

Overview

Julian Whyte leads a quiet, emotionally shut down life as a barrister, bachelor, and district coroner in the small village of Mansfield in the south of England. His only close relative is his older brother Raymond, who for the past several years has led the life of an expatriate Communist intellectual in East Germany. But it is 1991. The Berlin Wall is down and Raymond Whyte is moving to Mansfield with his new German wife, Kristina, and family. He hopes for an escape from the moral compromises of his life in a ...
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Overview

Julian Whyte leads a quiet, emotionally shut down life as a barrister, bachelor, and district coroner in the small village of Mansfield in the south of England. His only close relative is his older brother Raymond, who for the past several years has led the life of an expatriate Communist intellectual in East Germany. But it is 1991. The Berlin Wall is down and Raymond Whyte is moving to Mansfield with his new German wife, Kristina, and family. He hopes for an escape from the moral compromises of his life in a repressive state, but his arrival quickly stirs the suspicions of the small town. When Julian finds himself drawn to Kristina, the family reunion turns sour and fraught with tension. By degrees Julian becomes caught in a spiral of guilt and betrayal from which there is no escape - except perhaps through murder.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_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 either-a literate thriller that, if it has aspirations beyond that, does not achieve them.
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.)
Library Journal
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"
Kirkus Reviews
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 masterful—and largely implausible—fashion, 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393040463
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/1997
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert McCrum
Robert McCrum
Robert McCrum, now literary editor of London's Observer, was the editor-in-chief of the publishing firm Faber & Faber in London for nearly 20 years. The author of six highly acclaimed novels and coauthor of the bestselling The Story of English, his latest work is an illuminating look at the life of one of his literary heroes, P. G. Wodehouse.

Biography

Although not a household name in America, editor and writer Robert McCrum has had an enormous impact on the current state of literature. In his 20 years as Editor-in-Chief at famed British publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum transformed a largely mediocre fiction list into a roster that included such successful and influential novelists as Peter Carey, Paul Auster, and Vikram Seth. In 1996, McCrum turned a semi-regular stint writing for the British newspaper The Observer into a fulltime position as literary editor, where he remains today. Somewhere along the line, he found the time to publish six of his own novels, co-author a best-selling history of the English language, and research and write a critically lauded biography of English humorist P.G. Wodehouse.

After graduating from Cambridge's Corpus Christi College on a history scholarship, McCrum set off across the pond with a post-graduate scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his MA, and then left the world of academia forever, opting instead to take a one-year extended tour of America in his Buick Skylark.

Back in England, McCrum took a job as a publicity assistant at Chatto & Windus. McCrum's intelligence, charm, and competitive streak quickly put him on the map as a rising star in British publishing. In 1979, a mere two years after starting at Chatto & Windus, McCrum began his successful run at Faber and Faber.

Never one to settle for complacency, McCrum published his first novel the following year, a thriller about the inner workings of British national intelligence called In the Secret State. His second novel, A Loss of Heart, was released in 1982. Two years after that, yet another novel, The Fabulous Englishman, was released to solid reviews and sales.

McCrum's biggest success came as co-author 1986 publication of The Story of English, which was released in tandem with a 10-part PBS documentary of the same name. McCrum's work on the series earned him an Emmy and a Peabody award, and the book became an international bestseller that still sells briskly in its 3rd revised edition.

And so McCrum's seemingly charmed life continued into the 90s. A fourth novel, Mainland, came out in 1992, and McCrum was putting the finishing touches on his next novel, Suspicion, when tragedy struck. In the summer of 1995, he awoke to find his entire left side paralyzed by a devastating stroke. Only 42 years old, McCrum's world shifted overnight. The writer's natural curiosity and need to communicate persevered, however, and in 1998 he released a critically-acclaimed memoir of his year spent in recovery entitled My Year Off.

Shortly after the publication of My Year Off, McCrum launched full-force into work on Wodehouse: A Life. Research for the biography of the famed English humorist would take him all over the world, from Wodehouse's homes in California to the German camp where he was interned during World War II to New York City. "It seems to me that you can't begin to understand someone until you see where they lived, what they saw out of the window when they woke up, and the kind of people they were living near," McCrum has said.

Four years spent traveling and reading Wodehouse's vast amounts of published and unpublished works paid off with a biography that critics have hailed as the definitive chronicle of the life of P.G. Wodehouse.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with McCrum:

"I'm a) tall b) speak English c) like a drink."

"My first job was looking after a parrot in a zoo."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 7, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cambridge, England
    1. Education:
      Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, England, 1972-75; University of Pennsylvania, 1975-76

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