Having watched the BBC TV drama A Very English Scandal, I was interested when I received an email from Lightning Books about this debut novel from Adam MacQueen. With the true life story surrounding the then Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe as one of it’s main threads, this fictional story asks; what if….??!!
When Jeremy Thorpe hired thugs to kill his ex-lover, they botched it. What if they had succeeded?
It is February 1976, and the naked corpse of a shockingly underage rent boy is fished out of a pond on Hampstead Heath. Since the police don’t seem to care, twenty-year-old Tommy Wildeblood – himself a former ‘Dilly boy’ prostitute – finds himself investigating.
Dodging murderous Soho hoodlums and the agents of a more sinister power, Tommy uncovers another, even more shocking crime: the Liberal leader and likely next Home Secretary, Jeremy Thorpe, has had his former male lover executed on Exmoor and got clean away with it. Now the trail of guilt seems to lead higher still, and a ruthless Establishment will stop at nothing to cover its tracks.
In a gripping thriller whose cast of real-life characters includes Prime Minister Harold Wilson, his senior adviser Lady Falkender, gay Labour peer Tom Driberg and the investigative journalist Paul Foot, Adam Macqueen plays ‘what if’ with Seventies political history – with a sting in the tail that reminds us that the truth can be just as chilling as fiction.
I raced through this book and really enjoyed it! Now that sounds strange in a way, considering the topic and subject matter that is at the heart of the book, but enjoy it I did.
The story line follows Tommy, a former rent boy, who accidentally learns of the death of another, younger, rent boy, and is asked to investigate it. With the prospect of a large amount of cash about to go into his pocket, or sock, he soon finds himself in a far bigger and more dangerous investigation than he thought possible.
I found this a dark, realistic, totally gripping and intriguing thriller, that had me glued to the page. I couldn’t wait to get back to the story each time daily chores took me away.
A wonderful array of characters, most based on real life individuals from the time, were brilliantly brought to life by the author. His description of Soho and surrounding area, and of the Dilly Boys was vivid and heartbreaking in some parts. The time setting was used to it’s full and I loved the references of how much things cost back then.
The story had wonderful pace and I loved the character of Tommy, his delightful humour used throughout the book was wonderfully cheeky. and although flawed, you would find it hard not to root for him considering his past and present life.
A great blend of fact and fiction I found this a great read full of tension, superb characterisation and a gripping plot.
A big thank you to Lightning Books for my advanced copy. Beneath The Street is available to purchase now!