What drives a man to suicide? Or to murder?
When cinema star David Gale kills himself, his ghostwriter, Louise Summers, is ordered to revamp his autobiography for a new edition, dropping in morose hints of what’s to come. But she’s uncomfortable with the idea and well along with her latest project, a biography of idealistic young Cambridge communist Andrew Pax, executed for treason back in the ’40s and the subject of Broken Light, Gale’s last film. So she tries to keep to the truth of Gale’s life while discovering what really happened to Pax, a balancing act that brings her to his interrogator, Clifford Dean, a man seriously at odds with his wife Clara and bubbling over with long-held secrets. Among them is the role charismatic Cambridge don Roy Estham played in recruiting Pax, an act that troubled him so deeply he committed suicide. Or did he? Taunting Clifford about her past loves, Clara suggests that jealousy, not politics, led Estham to his death. As movie producers and publishing executives demand that Louise sanitize her subjects, she confronts libel laws, marital brouhahas, and her own journalistic integrity before piecing together the whys and wherefores of her subjects’ lives.
James, author of the gritty Harpur and Iles series (The Girl with the Long Back, see below, etc.), effectively infiltrates the territory of Graham Greene’s The Third Man, making you think twice about sending your kids to college—or acquiescing to your wife’s headstrong ways.