Looking for your next absorbing, compelling, page-turning psychological thriller read? Look no further than Reputation (Simon and Schuster 2022) by Sarah Vaughan, the UK author whose previous novel Anatomy of a Scandal is currently showing as a Netflix series (and has now moved up on my TBW list!)
Reputation is an intelligent, contemporary crime thriller that is absolutely set in the now and incorporates themes such as #metoo, revenge porn, women in power, cyber bullying, the dangers of the internet, journalistic morals (or lack thereof), and the constant dilemma of how ambitious women manage to also keep families, friends and social lives. The writing is taut and tense and the story never lets up for a single moment.
Emma Webster is a respectable politician who has made a name for herself by standing up for what she believes is right. She is a devoted mother who cares deeply for her 14-year-old daughter Flora. She knows she has placed her daughter in a difficult position simply by being an outspoken political opponent.
Emma Webster is also innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist. Or is she? We know from the very beginning that Emma Webster is a liar and that she would do anything to protect her child. But does that mean she is capable of murder?
This is a different sort of psychological thriller in that it is narrated by many different characters: Emma; her daughter, Flora; Caroline, Flora’s stepmother; Mike the journalist; and even creepy stalker Simon, in addition to including texts and emails, online forum comments and trolling, and newspaper reports. This patchwork of information comes together during two timelines – at the time of the crime, and then during the jury trial a year later.
What becomes clear throughout this novel is that nothing is ever black and white. Reputation is everything – it can sometimes be all that someone has. Reputations can be damaged whether or not there is just cause.
There are many plot points and of course some unexpected twists, especially towards the end.
This is a novel that totally conveys that familiar feeling to a woman of walking faster in the dark because she senses someone behind her, carrying her keys like a weapon as she approaches her home, fearful to open social media because of what anonymous threats might be posted there. It is the feeling every adolescent girl knows of not knowing who to trust, catfishing and girls who are friends one day and frenemies the next. It is also a story about family, and about sacrificing the truth to save your loved ones from themselves. Highly addictive read.