Back in 2010 Graham Minett won the Chapter One Prize for best opening chapter in an unpublished novel. This has developed into “The Hidden Legacy.” It is without doubt a powerful, memorable opening to the novel and concerns a crime carried out by an eleven year old in 1966 which outrages the nation and places him, John Michael Adams, in custody.
In 2008 Ellen Harrison discovers she has been left a cottage in a will by an elderly widow she has never met nor heard of. Is this a case of mistaken identity or have secrets been kept from her for the whole of her life?
This is a well-plotted, well structured debut. Minett gained an MA in Creative Writing from Chichester University and his ability to handle the techniques of putting together this novel is unsurprisingly strong. He gradually links the two narrative strands but keeps us guessing, and although I might have been ahead of the plot a few times there were still a number of twists and turn that caught me out. It reads, in terms of themes and structure, something like the novels Ruth Rendell wrote as Barbara Vine, which for me is strong praise, but perhaps here the psychology does not run as deep as in Vine’s best work.
This is a very accessible novel which I would have no hesitation in recommending to a range of readers. There’s an edginess to the plot which I found appealing. This might have something to do with the child crime locked into the past. The press and public reaction to this feels familiar and highly plausible. The characters are well-drawn, even if you feel the main character might have spent her life with her head wedged in sand! (Admittedly, this is often the default position for the main character in a mystery novel). All of the elements are here to suggest that Minett has an exciting writing career ahead of him and I very much enjoyed experiencing his first novel .
The Hidden Legacy is published in the UK on November 5th by Twenty7 Books. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this copy for review