Flynn Berry’s A Double Life is based on the unsolved mystery of Lord Lucan, who was accused of murdering his children’s nanny and attempting to murder his wife before disappearing, never to be seen again. In this novel, daughter Claire Alden (not her original name) continues to investigate her nanny’s murder, her mother’s assault, and figure out where in the hell her father disappeared after that terrible night. The novel flies along, giving us answers that followers of the Lord Lucan case will probably never get.
Decades after the night her mother saw her father attack the nanny and then try to kill her, Claire is a doctor in London. Her brother is an opioid addict and insurance adjuster. Their mother too them to Scotland and changed their names to help them all try to start over, but it’s clear that it’s impossible not to be affected by what happened. Claire is probably the best functioning member of their little family and even she’s been tormented by phobias and her obsession for answers. She also seethes with resentment towards her father’s rich friends, who seem to have carried on with their privileged lives while they’ve had to scrimp and save.
While Claire gathers clues in the present, we get brief flashes of the night her parents met and how they came to be married. He was a rich heir to an earldom. She was a waitress. It should have been a romance novel, not something that murderinos online devote so much attention to that they’ve created websites dedicated to the crime. It shocks Claire that the people online know what they had for dinner before the murder and assault, but she can’t remember.
A Double Life races towards its conclusion, but I think the book is best when it plays with us with the clues Claire gathers. After her father’s disappearance, his friends muddied the waters by hinting that Claire’s mother might be suffering from post-natal depression or that she might be abusive. There is so little physical evidence from the crime scene that there is room to doubt. I tried to keep an open mind, though I struggled because a) I tend to believe the person who was injured and b) I instinctively loathe rich entitled people. When the answer arrived, even though it made sense, I was a little unsatisfied with the conclusion of the book. It all just happens too fast for me. All that lovely doubt dissipates in a flash and I felt like I witnessed a tent collapsing.