The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.
This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.
Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?
Okay. Ooft. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve reviewed on the blog. At the end of last year, I realised I needed a break from the book reviews, just to give myself time to read some books on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read for years. Books I’d been putting off so that I could get through all the books sent to me from publishers. For the first time in a long time, I was choosing what to read based purely on interest rather than need, and it felt damn good.
But all holidays must come to an end, and I’m back! Back requesting review copies from publishers and back reviewing some of the fantastic reads I received over the last few months. Starting with Charlotte Vassell’s debut novel The Other Half.
A suspenseful police procedural that centres around the murder of a well-known socialite and influencer, Charlotte paints a rather accurate portrait of society’s elite, crafting a large suite of absurd and wildly unlikeable characters all connected to a murder.
The most notable character, narcissist Rupert Beauchamp, organises a black-tie dinner to celebrate his 30th birthday party (upstairs at a McDonalds, hilariously). When his girlfriend Clemency is found dead not long after the drug-fuelled event, investigators must navigate their way through this incredibly elite, self-centred world to find out which member of Clemmie’s circle might’ve committed the crime.
“Nell had walked from Islington to the V&A. No better way to kill a couple of hours waiting to go on a date with your long-standing friend who you angry-shagged last night than with a brisk panic-stroll through Central London.”
The entertaining elements in this book are two-fold. On the one hand, the characters provide hilarity and laughs – they’re utterly ridiculous in what they wear, how they act and speak about others, what they do (or don’t) care about. Charlotte provides a masterclass in how to paint characters vividly in few words, and it’s remarkable that this is her debut.
And on the other hand, at its core this is a crime novel with a team of police leading an investigation to find the perpetrator. So it feels like both a character-driven and a plot-driven story, which will appeal to many readers.
“Caius was back at his desk in the incident room and had finally finished reading the full autopsy report. Clemmie’s poor mother had called, or rather sobbed down the phone to him. She didn’t appear to know her daughter at all. Nothing useful came from that interaction.”
Vassell explores elitism and London’s class system. We meet characters whose entitlement has them believing they can do whatever their want – they almost seem to be void of real emotional or realistic maturity, and it makes for an entertaining read.
I rather like Charlotte’s writing style – succinct, direct, no unnecessary description. She doesn’t bog down the story with excessive setting or character reflection. She lets dialogue carry the story, and so much of the characterisation comes through in her zippy dialogue and cunning observations.
“Caius hung up as a grey-haired man in a loose-fitting Nehro collar shirt, faded pink shorts and brown leather boating shoes unlocked the gallery door. It was reassuring to know that fifty-somethings with little pot bellies could still pull.”
The Other Half is recommended for readers of thriller, crime and mystery. Readership skews 21+
Thank you to the publishing company for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Other Half
Allen & Unwin Book Publishers