The Birthday Present, by Barbara Vine

Ivor Tesham, an up-and-coming Tory MP, is having an intense affair with Hebe, a married woman. He arranges a mock abduction, in which she will be taken from the street, and brought, bound and gagged, to his flat. But there's a car crash: Hebe and one of the hired abductors are killed, and Ivor has to decide what, if anything, to tell the police.

The interesting thing about this book was that it was told by two characters: Ivor's brother-in-law, who relates, in the third person, events with the benefit of hindsight, some years following the "abduction", and Jane Atherton, who's thoughts are revealed in a journal that she'd kept throughout the period of the events in question. Jane was Hebe's friend, and had provided Hebe with alibis so for those occasions when she'd been visiting Ivor, and so knew, when Hebe died, where she must have been going.

The book didn't entirely deliver though: there was one occasion where a got a little tingle as Jane said something in her diary which made me think "oh! she's forgotten about....", and realise that something was likely to happen which Jane hadn't considered. But there wasn't enough of this, and the rest of the story ended up being a bit dull.

The one thing which I was impressed with [spoiler] was that about two thirds through it, we switch from one of Jane's journal entries to a section where Ivor is talking about how he'd read in the paper that a girl had been murdered, and you realise he's talking about Jane, and that this means that there'll be no more Jane entries in the book. This was powerful because there was obviously nothing in Jane's journal about her death, nor any suggestion that she anticipated it: she just... stops.

But overall a bit disappointing.

Completed : 16-Sep-2012 (audiobook)

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