The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola
|The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Fact beautifully melded with fiction in a tale of dark deception and violence based on a true 1837 court case.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2016|
|Publisher: Tinder Press|
|External links: Author's website|
1837: Sarah Gale is found guilty of aiding and abetting James Greenwood in the murder of Hannah, his fiancée. It's particularly gruesome as the body was brutally dismembered and left in various locations around London. Bound for the gallows and fearing for the future of her young son George, Sarah petitions for mercy from the Home Office and, as a result, the Home Secretary appoints barrister Edmund Fleetwood to re-investigate the case. Edmund approaches it with an open mind but nothing prepares him for what he'll discover and not just in the professional realm.
People with legal qualifications are often considered to have no imagination. Yet there are those, like John Mortimer who prove themselves to be not only imaginative but entertaining. The Unseeing may not be mirthful like a Rumpole story, but that doesn't matter. Its author, criminal justice solicitor Anna Mazzola, can definitely be added to these ranks of riveting expertise. This story is actually based on a real case and brought to us in a form that's carefully researched and brilliantly paced.
Sarah has been written off by 19th century opinion and left to rot, awaiting hanging at Newgate. Yet the more Fleetwood looks into it, the more he realises this is a woman worth fighting authority for. She has hidden depths though. The question is what are these depths hiding?
Whereas Sarah is real, Edmund is fictionalised to great purpose and effect and not just for his great line in background and sub-plot. He's our eyes, aid to understanding the crime and process plus the vehicle for some great shocks towards the end. Edmund is also totally believable, being led more by his heart and a burning urge for justice than by the business acumen his wife would wish upon him to aid their circumstances. A bright mind living in a lower middle class setting, the pressure he's under from his wife and disdain of his father draws us to him even more.
I promise there'll be no spoilers so let's just say that the process of law in a nation about to topple into Queen Victoria's reign isn't totally law-led. Anna shows how justice was indeed blind at that time – blind to the truth and evidence rather than impartiality. (Just one of the meanings behind the cleverly chosen title.) Opinion, prejudice and consideration of what would best suit society, along with some iffy psychology holds more weight for the influential. As for Newgate prison's place in the justice system, it makes Cell Block H look like Butlins.
This is a novel that would entice, engage and heartily please fellow fans of authors like Antonia Hodgson. Meanwhile, talking of pleasing heartily (she says, unsplitting the infinitive) if I've read it correctly there may just be a little crack left in the door for Edmund to return. I sincerely hope (for his benefit as well as ours) he does and it's soon. An Anna Mazzola novel is definitely something to look forward to.
(Thank you so much to the people of Tinder Press for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you enjoy a good historical crime, we heartily recommend the aforementioned Antonia and The Devil in the Marshalsea or In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback. If you would like to pursue the idea of characters invented by legal professionals, try Rumpole at Christmas by John Mortimer or from the other side of the Ocean Gray Mountain by John Grisham.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola at Amazon.com.
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