Staincliffe, Cath - 'The Kindest Thing'
In THE KINDEST THING, Cath Staincliffe has turned away from her crime series featuring PI Sal Kilkenny and DCI Janine Lewis to present us with the dilemma faced by Deborah Shelley. It opens with Deborah on her fiftieth birthday being taken to trial for the murder of her husband.
Deborah, educated, self-employed and a mother of two has been married to Neil Draper for 24 years, and together for 30, when he is diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). Neil's insistence on controlling the place and time of his death puts an enormous burden on Deborah and ultimately leads to her being tried for murder.
The present day narrative of the court-case, the witness statements and so on is interleaved with passages about Deborah and Neil's life together: how they met, their children, family holidays and Neil's requests for help to die, as he becomes more ill. On the face of it Deborah keeps it together well but she sometimes rings the MNDA helpline to:
Allow myself to weep on the phone to one of the anonymous volunteers. Open my Pandora's box and pull on a cloak of brief despair, wrap scarves of fear tight about my throat, veil my face with sheets of white-hot grief and weep for my loss.
THE KINDEST THING is a terribly moving book. A heart-breaking read. It's a love story with an unhappy ending, irrespective of the trial's outcome, told against a backdrop of a courtroom drama. Beautifully written, my sympathies changed from being with one of the lovers to the other as more background information was released. Deborah was placed in an impossible position, but did she do the right thing? I was absorbed by this story but it left me rather unsettled, a clear sign that the characters were very real to me.
Karen Meek, England