The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the latest addition to Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley series. The Whole Truth is the fifth, and while thanks to the skilful way that some of the necessary explanations from underlying story arc involving Adam Fawley and his wife Alex are incorporated seamlessly into the text, plus some character profiles of Adam’s team at the beginning, new readers can ‘hit the ground running’ as Hunter suggests. If you’d like to find out more about some of this series, I reviewed #1 Close to Home here, and #4 All the rage here.

The story begins with an exchange of menacing text messages, before we join Adam and Alex, who is heavily pregnant, visiting Alex’s parents. Adam’s sister-in-law has brought up the fact that Gavin Parrie, the ‘roadside rapist’ whom Adam had put away in previous books, is now out of prison, and that Alex (and Adam with reason) is worried about him.

Aside from that ongoing plotline, each volume in the series features a major crime for DI Fawley and his Oxford-based team. This time, it begins with a call from the Principal of one of the colleges, a student has made an accusation of sexual assault against one of the professors. Fawley meets DC Quinn there, and they are shocked to discover that the victim is male, a six-foot rugby player. Caleb, one of her postgrads had been baby-sitting divorcee Professor Marina Fisher’s eight-year-old son while she was at a fundraiser, returning home drunk and allegedly making moves on Caleb. It’s a potential career-breaker for Fisher.

It’s another particularly tricky case for Fawley and his crew, and I shall say little more specific about it. But one comment from one of Prof Fisher’s colleagues to the lovely DC Asante made me laugh:

“… The average Oxford department, Detective Constable, is a very small pond, overstocked with piranhas the size of elks. And the fact that they’re so rare only serves to make the female of the species that much deadlier.”

As always, Hunter intersperses her narrative with texts, WhatsApp convos, newspaper reports, tweets, police reports and so on, all happening in real time, all reflecting real life interest in local issues. Her Oxford and surrounding areas, briefly including Abingdon this time where I live, are also very real. Local readers will know these places and that they are true makes a difference. This series is also notable for being inclusive of town and gown, Oxford is not just the university and this city which is one of the most expensive places to buy a house in the UK has its fair share of social issues beyond the class divide. The insight into the rarified world of Marina Fisher is very different to the previous volume.

Bringing the local social media into the equation gives an immediate tension to the story. Hunter always finds a new media stream to bring into play and this time it is the transcripts of a podcast looking into miscarriages of justice that are included – Gavin Parrie’s conviction is featured. Hunter’s plots also reflect issues at the times of writing – in this case #MeToo (#HeToo).

Again, I particularly enjoyed how Fawley’s team are a good team. They all have their own concerns, but are supportive and work well together for the most part and even the cocky DC Quinn who’d been demoted from DS plays a blinder. Some sections are first person, told from Adam Fawley’s point of view, occasionally from others including his increasingly worried wife. The narrative occurs in sections rather than conventional chapters, no page breaks to slow things down. There is such an immediacy to this series of novels, you feel like they’re unfolding in real time as you read. There are many twists and turns in both plotlines – just when I thought I’d figured out the #MeToo one, the rug was pulled out from under me, and the situation that Adam and Alex end up in has the potential to be soul-destroying heart-in-the-mouth stuff given their history, which you’ll have pieced together as the novel progresses.

This is perhaps the best yet in this superb series. Loved it (10/10)

Source: Review copy – thank you. Cara Hunter, The Whole Truth – Penguin paperback, 420 pages.

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