The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter: Superbly paced, bristling with tension and powerful emotions - book review -

When one of Oxford University’s star professors is accused of sexually assaulting a student, the case is far more complex than DI Adam Fawley had initially imagined.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:45 pm
The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter
The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

Because the alleged predator is an attractive 42-year-old woman… and the victim is a 23-year-old six-foot tall rugby player, built like a full-back and with the physique of an athlete.

The Whole Truth is the fifth addictive mystery in Cara Hunter’s outstanding Oxford-based police series and if you thought last year’s pulsating All the Rage couldn’t be bettered, then get your hands on this super-intelligent, super spine-tingling new chapter for Fawley and his team, and enjoy a writer now comfortably perched on the top branch of the crime-writing tree.

Steeped in gritty reality, suspense and devilishly clever and authentic detective work, Hunter’s series has been be adapted for the small screen by television producer and screenwriter Daisy Coulam – best known for writing ITV smash hit Grantchester – in tandem with production company Castlefield TV. And only last week, it was announced that The Whole Truth has been picked for the prestigious Richard & Judy Book Club.

These are well deserved accolades for Hunter’s enthralling stories which have won widespread acclaim for their artful plotting and an original narrative device which features news reports, social media posts, police interviews and scene-of-crime evidence, allowing readers intriguing insights into a police investigation.

In this new outing for DI Adam Fawley a postgraduate student at one of Oxford University’s smaller colleges accuses a professor of sexual assault and the team immediately think they’ve heard it all before.

But they couldn’t be more wrong because the professor is Marina Fisher, an attractive woman who is a big name in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and the student is handsome, beefy, postgraduate Caleb Morgan.

Fawley knows immediately that it’s going to be a difficult case… the university department has much invested in the success of high-flying Marina Fisher and will do everything it can to prevent her going down. And Caleb Morgan is the son of Petra Newson, a combative local MP, who has an agenda longer than Fawley’s service record and has spoken out about UK universities, accusing them of failing victims of sexual violence.

So the professor has everything at stake and the student has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.

Meanwhile, the notorious Roadside Rapist, Gavin Parrie, who has served eighteen years behind bars for sex crimes, is out of prison on licence. At the time of his trial, Parrie claimed he was innocent and swore to take revenge on Fawley and his wife Alex when he was released.

Eight months pregnant and still haunted by the suicide death of their son two years ago, Alex’s nerves are shattered and she can see Parrie ‘on every street corner’ and ‘in every shadowed and half-glimpsed face.’

The heat is on for Fawley and Alex… and not just because the July summer is proving one of the hottest on record.

Written in her own leafy corner of Oxford, Hunter’s new mystery is brimming with all the gripping thrills, psychological chills and brilliant police procedural detail that we have come to expect from classic crime set in the city that spawned the unforgettable Inspector Morse.

Reading The Whole Truth is an electrifying, utterly engrossing experience as new information drip-feeds into the story like a constantly flowing stream, unloading explosive revelations like scatter-bombs, and turning all expectations on their head right up until the final, jaw-dropping page.

As always the observant and compassionate Fawley, and his eclectic, close-knit team of officers, are at the beating heart of the investigation with their personal and professional lives perfectly balanced against the unfolding of a double-layered mystery which abounds with red herrings, ingenious twists, and witnesses and suspects whose guilt or innocence seems to fluctuate at every turn.

And it’s a testing time for Fawley on every level as he treads warily through a high-stakes case – in which the minefield of gender and university politics are at their murkiest – and all the while looking over his shoulder in the knowledge that the past is catching up with him.

With menace simmering at every turn, a terrified, pregnant Alex feeling increasingly paranoid and isolated, and Fawley’s career in danger of going into freefall, Hunter brings us a stunning portrait of Oxford as not just a place of academia and dreaming spires, but a hotbed of dark deeds, intrigue and deadly revenge.

Superbly paced, bristling with tension and powerful emotions, and peppered with Hunter’s brand of dark humour, this is a series that promises to give Morse a run for his money when it finally hits our screens.

(Penguin, paperback, £7.99)