In November 1974, the Earl of Lucan, known as “Lucky” Lucan, disappeared after his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was brutally murdered and his ex-wife beaten. Lady Lucan stated that her husband was the man who did it, but he was never found. In Aiding and Abetting, Muriel Spark speculates about what might have happened to Lord Lucan.
We meet Lord Lucan at the Paris office of a famous psychiatrist named Hildegard Wolf. Lucan is up-front about his identity, but Wolf is not convinced because he is not the only Lord Lucan to come to her for treatment. Another man, who goes by the name Walker, claims to be Lucan. It turns out the two men know each other, and they know a secret about Wolf—years ago, she pretended to be a stigmatic and obtained donations in return for miracles.
Before listening to this book, I knew nothing of the Lucan case, but I can see why it would be intriguing. Whatever did happen to Lucan? How would he have gotten by? Who was helping him along the way? In this book, Spark introduces us to several characters who help Lucan out of obligation for their otherwise respectable friend who just committed a bungle. He didn’t mean to kill the nanny; he was after his wife.
I think I would have enjoyed this book more had I read it in print. It’s a short book, but there’s a lot going on within it. Spark delves into issues of identity, friendship, social class, and our fascination with true crime. It’s the kind of book that I think requires a slower reading than you get on audio. There were several times when I know I would have flipped back and read passages that happened much earlier if I’d been reading the book, but it’s not practical on audio.
On audio, the book was only okay. The plot relied heavily on coincidence, and the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. The characters were interesting, but they never felt like real people. I think some of the artificiality of the plot and the characterization was intentional, but it doesn’t make for good listening.
This was only the second Muriel Spark book I’ve read. The other was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I enjoyed but not as much as I expected to. (I think I was in the wrong mood for it when I read it.) I’m not on the way to being a die-hard fan, but I’m willing to give her another try. Any recommendations?