I’ve read a few of Paula Daly’s books now (four according to Goodreads, including last year’s Open Your Eyes) so received emails from her UK and US publishers about her latest release, Clear My Name.
I really liked the lead character in this book and would ‘love’ for Tess to feature in a series. In some ways she’s kind-of an unlikely narrator… in her 40s and someone who didn’t quite achieve all they wanted. And though she’s settled into a job she enjoys, there’s a sense she’s biding time. (And worryingly I could kinda relate!)
Clear My Name
by Paula Daly
Published by Bantam Press, Atlantic Monthly Press
on August 8th 2019
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1787632105, 9780802147837
When Carrie was accused of brutally murdering her husband’s lover, she denied it. She denied it when they arrested her, when they put her in front of a jury, and when they sent her to prison.
Now she’s three years into a fifteen-year sentence, away from the daughter she loves and the life she had built. And she is still denying that she is to blame.
Tess Gilroy has devoted her life to righting wrongs. Through her job for Innocence UK, a charity which takes on alleged miscarriages of justice, she works tirelessly to uncover the truth.
But when she is asked to take Carrie’s case, Tess realises that if she is to help this woman, she must risk uncovering the secrets she has struggled a lifetime to hide .
So, Tess is a great protagonist. We pretty quickly learn she’s far from perfect and is seemingly running from something. I’d initially guessed it was something that led her into the work she’s in, but I was wrong. (Gulp, yes wr-wr-wrong!)
I was a tad affronted on behalf of Tess – that she wasn’t consulted when someone was brought on (by her advisory board) to work with her… as a sole employee etc you’d think she would have been given some notice or have some say in who was chosen. But nope. Naturally I expected there’s be some nefarious purpose to it all.
Tess feels a lot of antipathy about taking Carrie’s case initially, though mostly because it involves returning to the childhood home town she left decades before (never to return).
But, the advisory board for Innocence UK are coping some flak because they’ve never taken a woman’s case before so Tess has no choice.
I liked that Tess’s role is kinda investigative. I assumed (initially) she’d be a lawyer and arguing some boring point of law or something, but instead Tess (and now her offsider Avril) are responsible for doing the groundwork required by her board of advisors – all of whom bring some expertise to the case at hand. In fact, as Daly was quite specific about their expertise it made me wonder if the series would continue, with each given some time in the spotlight. (And you’re more than welcome to that idea if you’d like Paula! 🙂 )
Daly offers up Carrie’s story from her point of view, though we never get to the actual murder for which she’s accused. Rather there are some flashbacks to events in the lead-up… giving us a sense I suspect, of what was at stake. It doesn’t necessarily bode well for Carrie who also admits that she’s been less-than-honest.
Because I’m such an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers – not to mention smug – I assumed I’d worked out who it was. In fact… my notes say something like, “Please don’t let it be as obvious as…..” And thankfully it wasn’t. Phew.
I enjoyed the complexity Daly offers readers through the murder of Ella (Carrie’s husband’s lover). It’s always easy to bastardise the victim when we like the potential perpetrator so we feel better about their demise, but Daly doesn’t do that here and there’s a lot more to Ella’s story than initially expected.
Of course there’s also Tess’s own secrets and whatever it is that motivates her to keep everyone at arm’s length. Despite having made it to her mid 40s as a fully functioning human, she feels very unworthy and unlovable… and we eventually learn why.
There’s some interesting insights from Tess (well, Daly) about the criminal justice system and how some people (perhaps innocent) are eventually rewarded for admitting guilt and remorse in order to be released on parole and a reminder that sometimes accepting ‘defeat’ is easier than continuing to fight, if it seems unlikely you’ll ever win. So… there’s some ethical fodder to ponder here as well.
Clear My Name by Paula Daly was published in UK by Bantam Press (Penguin Random House UK) and will be published in the US by Grove Atlantic in early September.
I received electronic copies of this book from the publishers for review purposes.
** PS. Be warned, as I wrote this review I could not stop singing ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child… #earworm