The mystery of this title is introduced in the Prologue when we are witnesses to the secret burial by Sir Thomas, of a beggar in place of another old man, who has died in an English village in 1550. But the novel begins in the present day where we meet Rob Tyler, a young man who is financing his History PhD by part-time work for Wynslade County Archives. Going through the notes of William Amory gentleman and antiquarian, he is forced to photocopy them quickly since they have been demanded by a member of the public.
Rob also earns money teaching an evening class in Family History where one of his regular students is Emily Finch, an elderly lady who keeps 40 years of research on her Finch Family History in a shopping trolley. Rob’s neighbour in his Victorian terrace house is a very different young man. An unqualified builder doing-up the house to sell for a profit, Chris has nothing in common with Rob and yet the two help each other and become involved in solving an historical mystery which takes them into the realms of danger and crime.
The subject matter of the family of Richard III and the way in which the mystery is solved using old documents and an ancient building very much appealed to me as a family historian. The added excitement of an aggressive opponent who will stop at nothing to uncover the information he wants, make this book an exciting read. Emily’s great nieces Claire and Laura also become involved but their relationship with the two young men has no chemistry and very little co-operation.
Despite solving the mystery Rob and Chris decide to keep most of their discoveries to themselves but they are rewarded in some way and the reader is the person who has learnt most about what might have happened in the early 16th century.
“Fraud” is a complex story in which all the main characters practise deceit. And yet from the beginning the reader is charmed by the protagonists and intrigued by their motivation.
The story is centred on Nicola Carson, a stunning actress and celebrity who has been admitted into a psychiatric rehabilitation clinic because she is bipolar and suicidal. Visiting her is Dominic Sealy, an unpublished novelist and unemployed editor. Why is he so interested in Nicola and what are his motives? Despite his obvious subterfuge, Nicola latches on to him, persuading him to take her from the psychiatric hospital to live at his London flat.
Nicola’s fame is based on a best-selling novel called “Loss” which she published at the age of 22 and yet as soon as she had been offered a starring role in a film, she had abandoned her writing career and became an Oscar winner and the face of Chanel. Dominic reveals that he wishes to write her biography but his interest in her is his conviction that she had never actually written “Loss.” Despite his opinion, they are drawn into a relationship with each other and we are anxious to discover who is really the deceiver.
Travelling back 6 years we meet Ted Hamer, another unpublished novelist, on his 55th birthday. Supported by his wife Anne, a solicitor, he is able to concentrate on his writing but he has received a rejection letter for the novel of which he was most proud. With Anne away, he goes to the local pub for a meal where his mood is not improved by the rude waitress who serves him. At the end of the evening he talks to the waitress about her equally depressing day and offers to walk her home. Circumstances enable Ted to see more of the waitress and budding actress, whose name is Nicola Pearson.
As the “tangled web” of deceit is created we find ourselves warming to Dominic and Nicola and we want to know more about Ted’s life. Tragedy seems inevitable, since no-one seems worthy of trust and yet each character shows essential humanity, which might be the redeeming grace of the novel.
From beginning to end I was compelled to read on, anxious to discover who was responsible for each plot machination and whether there was the possibility of good coming from their mutual fraud. This is a surprising and inventive novel, well worth reading.