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In Aiding and Abetting, the doyenne of literary satire has written a wickedly amusing and subversive novel around the true-crime case of one of England’s most notorious uppercrust scoundrels and the “aiders and abetters” who kept him on the loose.
When Lord Lucan walks into psychiatrist Hildegard Wolf’s Paris office, there is one problem: she already has a patient who says he’s Lucan, the fugitive murderer who bludgeoned his children’s nanny in a botched attempt to kill his wife. As Dr. Wolf sets about deciding which of her patients, if either, is the real Lucan, she finds herself in a fierce battle of wills and an exciting chase across Europe. For someone is deceiving someone, and it may be the good doctor, who, despite her unorthodox therapeutic method (she talks mainly about her own life), has a sinister past, too.
Exhibiting Muriel Spark’s boundless imagination and biting wit, Aiding and Abetting is a brisk, clever, and deliciously entertaining tale by one of Britain’s greatest living novelists.
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First, a bit of history: The seventh Earl of Lucan disappeared on November 7, 1974, leaving behind the battered body of his children's nanny and a beaten wife. Widely covered in the press, his sensational story has had a surprisingly long half-life, and the speculation about his whereabouts has never quite died out. In this book, Muriel Spark toys with several provocative issues arising out of the case: identity, class, blood ("it is not purifying, it is sticky"), and the dynamics of psychiatry ("most of the money wasted on psychoanalysis goes on time spent unraveling the lies of the patient").
Aiding and Abetting opens sometime late in the 20th century, when an Englishman in his 60s walks into the Paris practice of famed Bavarian psychiatrist Dr Hildegard Wolf and announces that he is the missing Lord Lucan. Yet Hildegrad is already treating one self-confessed Lord Lucan. And what's more, both patients seem to have dirt on her--for isn't she really Beate Pappenheim, a notorious fraud who used her menstrual blood to fake her stigmata? Fearing for her safety, Hildegard flees to London, where her path inevitably crosses that of two British Lucan hunters.
Aiding and Abetting contains more than its share of broad farce and bitter irony. But it remains a strange, slight affair, its unspoken tenet being that the Lucan case still preys on the communal mind of the British public, its details (like the perpetrator's penchant for smoked salmon and lamb chops) indelibly printed there. For anyone under 30, that's a difficult argument to swallow. As one wise character puts it: "Few people today would take Lucan and his pretensions seriously, as they rather tended to do in the 70s." Times have changed indeed--and perhaps that's Spark's point after all, that the "psychological paralysis" of the not-quite-swinging '70s is long gone. --Alan StewartFrom the Back Cover:
“Elegant and chilling. . . . A trickily plotted black comedy that reads at once as a morality play and a glittering entertainment.” –The New York Times
“Strangely gripping and gnomically illuminating. . . . Spark has produced one of the best of her sui-generis novels.” –John Updike, The New Yorker
“A killer, his double, a shrink and her lover are the core cast of madcap characters in this gleefully grisly novel. . . . Spark does a remarkable job of weaving wacky personalities and gruesome details into a fast-moving, subversive comedy. . . . This book will make you laugh out loud.” –The Wall Street Journal
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