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DeceptionReview - Deception
A Novel
by Denise Mina
Little, Brown, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Mar 7th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 10)

Deception is the fourth novel by Denise Mina, a Scots writer whose Garnethill trilogy has won much acclaim among crime fiction aficionados.  It is a wonderfully structured work that slowly reveals its secrets.  The novel is in the form of the journal of Lachlan Harriot, the husband of Susie Harriot, who has just been sent to prison for the murder of Andrew Gow.  Gow himself had been found guilty of multiple murders, but had been released on parole after an appeal because of new doubt on some DNA evidence that had been used to convict him, and because even after he had been imprisoned, murders in same style continued.  Gow was killed in the same manner, left with his tongue cut out.  Susie had been Gow's court-appointed psychologist, and she was a specialist in serial killers.  The newspapers speculated that she had fallen in love with Gow and then had killed him once he was released, for some perverse reason.  

After the trial, Lachlan is left at home with his baby daughter and his young Spanish housekeeper.  He spends his time in Susie's old office, collecting material to work on her appeal to prove that she had been wrongly convicted.  He can't sleep and he stays up all night going through the office files and writing his journal.  Gradually he builds his theory from the information he gleans from these files, and he comes to the conclusion that his marriage was not as he had thought it to be.  Lachlan visits Susie in prison regularly, but each visit is difficult, as relations between them become more strained.  The scenes are some of the most powerful in the book.  The book's ending is a little confusing, since it is not totally clear that Lachlan's theories are true, but this uncertainty makes the plot all the more tantalizing.

Deception is one of the best crime novels I have read in recent years, because it raises questions about how well one knows one's spouse or oneself.  It is deeply psychological, not just because Susie Harriot is a forensic psychologist and her notes spend a lot of time discussing the phenomenon of women falling in love with serial killers, but also because it is about trust and its loss between two people.  The format of a journal is not initially promising, but Mina manages to draw her reader in through her well-crafted writing.  She manages to avoid the usual clichés and pointlessly convoluted plot turns that litter the work of so many other writers of psychological crime fiction (Jonathan Kellerman, for instance) and brings a gritty realism to her writing that does Scottish culture proud.

 

Note: the performance of this book by Richard Matthews on the unabridged audiobook published by Books on Tape is masterful.  Matthews does a variety of Scottish accents very convincingly and combines a sense that Lachlan is suffering and yet at the same time is self-serving and self-deceived.

 

Link: Books On Tape page for Deception

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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