Clear My Name
My best friend has been urging me to pick up a Paula Daly book for the past couple of years, but it wasn’t until I read the blurb for Clear My Name, her latest novel of psychological suspense, that I actually took the plunge. Now, I’m excited to check out her back list since this novel was utterly engaging.
Tess has devoted her life to righting wrongs perpetuated by the UK’s criminal justice system. As part of a law firm that re-examines the criminal cases of those who claim to have been wrongly convicted, she’s seen her fair share of judiciary mistakes. Attempting to get convicted felons out of prison doesn’t exactly make her a popular person, but this doesn’t bother her at all. In fact, Tess does everything she can to keep the world at arm’s length, something I found a bit off-putting until midway through the book when the reasons for that were explained.
When Tess is assigned the case of a woman currently serving time in prison for allegedly murdering her husband’s lover, she’s not initially convinced a miscarriage of justice has taken place. Sure, Carrie seems like the least likely person to have committed such a violent crime, but Tess knows better than to be taken in by the stories her clients tell her; after all, if someone is capable of committing murder, lying usually isn’t much of a problem for them. But as she begins digging into Carrie’s case, Tess finds herself faced with a number of unanswered questions, and it’s not long before she starts wondering if Carrie might be innocent after all.
Ever since she was arrested for the murder, Carrie has proclaimed her innocence for all to hear. Her story hasn’t changed at all in the four years she’s been in prison, and she’s desperate for someone to take her seriously. When she meets Tess, she finds herself unable to quell the spark of hope she feels, even though Tess cautions her against getting her hopes up too high. All Carrie wants is to be reunited with her daughter Mia and put her time in prison behind her, but, of course, things don’t turn out to be nearly as cut and dried as Carrie wishes they were.
Most of the story is told from Tess’s point of view, but the author does give us glimpses of Carrie’s early days behind bars. The narrative jumps around a bit in time, but Ms. Daly always makes it clear when certain events are taking place, so I had no trouble keeping everything straight in my mind. Still, if you’re someone who prefers a more linear approach, Clear My Name might not be the book for you.
I found myself wishing I could have known Carrie a bit better as a character in her own right rather than seeing so much of her through Tess’s eyes. Her story is obviously quite complex, and it would have been quite interesting to spend more time in her head. Still, the story as a whole was really compelling, and I found myself eager to uncover the secrets being kept by both Carrie and Tess.
In order for a book like this one to work, the author must be able to convince her readers that a string of coincidental events aren’t too far-fetched to be taken seriously. Not everyone is capable of pulling this off, but Ms. Daly does a great job of it here. I obviously can’t go into much detail about said coincidences, but I can tell you I was more than willing to buy into them. They might not be things I’d take seriously in real life, but they fit together very well on the page.
Clear My Name is not a perfect book, but it’s fast-paced and twisty, making it a novel I’m delighted to recommend to fans of British thrillers. Paula Daly is an author I’ll be watching from now on, and I hope you’ll give her work a chance, too.