An attractive student. An older professor. Think you know the story? Think again.

This 2021 book from Cara Hunter was a bit of a surprise. It’s number five in a series about a detective inspector, Adam Fawley, and his team based in Oxford. I’m not too keen on lengthy series of crime novels featuring the same detective, so I instinctively felt I wouldn’t like this much. But I must say I did – quite a lot actually.

The sleeve notes for The Whole Truth are short and to the point:

“When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.”

From there the investigation proceeds in a tortuous line; the two protagonists are both being evasive, both changing their stories, never telling the truth. Alongside this runs another, much more sinister story, set firmly 20 years in the past. The two storylines weave in and out of each other, touching then separating, involving some of the same people. Then suddenly, half way through the book the second storyline comes crashing into the present, causing havoc. This development came as a surprise, although looking back there were little clues that something nasty was brewing.

The sexual assault plot is convoluted and it needs some concentration to follow it. The other story is sinister and quite upsetting. The author intersperses her text with newspaper reports, transcripts of blogs, What’s App threads, email correspondence, phone messages, even handwritten scribbles, all in different fonts. I’ve come across this literary device before (most notably in Minette Walters’ early books) and I rather like it. It adds interest and breaks up the prose.

I’ll sound one note of warning, though. Some of these passages, like the handwritten notes and the What’s App threads, are reproduced in a faint and quite small font, so at times I needed a magnifying glass to read them.

My verdict
I liked this book. It caught my attention right from the start and it is well written. The author has thoughtfully provided a short, snapshot summary of each of the members of the CID team, so you don’t have to wonder about who they are or what their role was. It would be easy to get muddled without this.

I also liked the different characters. The CID team members were well described and the reader is given just enough background information about each to feel you know them. Most of the other characters were uniformly unlikeable! And rather unusually, the Oxford setting is only very lightly touched upon, with no lingering descriptions of the dreaming spires. I rather liked that too.

If I should speculate on an underlying theme for this book, it would have to be revenge.

I will give it 4 stars. I’ve even borrowed the first Adam Fawley book and it will be interesting to see if I like it as well as I liked this. 
Review by: Freyja

P.S. Oundle Crime meets every month and everyone is welcome. So if you enjoy reading crime fiction and would like to drop in to see if you’d like to join us, email join@friendsofoundlelibrary.org.uk and we’ll send you the date and details of our next meeting.