A Double Life

A Double Life

by Flynn Berry

Paperback(Reprint)

$16.00
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Tuesday, October 22

Overview

“A thrilling page-turner.” —Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

“Breathtaking . . . As shocking as it is satisfying.” —The New York Times Book Review

A riveting and sophisticated page-turner inspired by one of the most shocking true crimes in 20th century Britain: the Lord Lucan case.


“A better person would for­give him. A different sort of better person would have found him years ago.”

Claire is a hardworking doctor leading a simple, quiet life in London. She is also the daughter of the most notorious murder suspect in the country, though no one knows it.

Nearly thirty years ago, while Claire and her brother slept upstairs, a brutal crime was committed in her family's townhouse. The next morning, her father's car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. Her mother insisted she'd seen him in the house that night, but his powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence. The first lord accused of murder in more than a century, he has been missing ever since.

When the police tell Claire they've found him, her carefully calibrated existence begins to fracture. She doesn't know if she's the daughter of a murderer or a wronged man, but Claire will soon learn how far she'll go to finally find the truth.

Loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century – the Lord Lucan case – A Double Life is at once a riveting page-turner and a moving reflection on women and violence, trauma and memory, and class and privilege.

Named a Must-Read by Entertainment Weekly, BustleO Magazine, BBC, CrimeReads, and PureWow

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735224988
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 94,811
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Flynn Berry is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and the recipient of a Yaddo fellowship. Her first novel, Under the Harrow, won the 2017 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and The Atlantic.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 Flynn Berry

1

A man comes around the bend in the path. I stop short when he appears. We’re alone. The heath has been quiet today, under dark snow clouds, and we’re on the part of the path where the oak trees form a tunnel.

The man is wearing a hat and a wool overcoat with the collar turned up. When he stops to light a cigarette, I’m close enough to see his knuckles rising under his gloves, but his face is hidden by the brim of his hat.

The dog is somewhere behind me. I don’t call for him, I don’t want the man to hear. Sparrows fly over our heads to the oaks, drawn into the branches like filings to a magnet. His lighter won’t catch, and the metal rasps as he tries again.

Jasper brushes past me. I reach for his collar but miss, almost losing my balance. The lighter flares and the man tips his head to hold the cigarette in the flame. Then he drops the lighter in his pocket and holds out his fist for the dog to smell. Jasper whines, and for the first time the man looks down the path at me.

It isn’t him. I call the dog, I say sorry in a strained voice. The path is narrow here, we have to pass within a few inches of each other, and I look at him again, to be sure. Then I clip the dog’s leash and hurry towards the houses and people on Well Walk. I wish it had been him, and that instead I was searching the ground for a heavy branch, and following him into the woods.

It’s been like this for the past three days, since the detective’s visit. I’ve been seeing him everywhere.

Last Thursday night, I came home from work and ran a bath before taking off my coat. While water filled the tub, I said hello to Jasper, kissing the crown of his head. His fur always smells like clean smoke, like he’s recently been near a campfire. I poured a glass of wine and drank it standing at the counter.

In the bathroom, I filled a small wooden shovel with Epsom salts and tipped them into the water. My friend Nell had sent me the salts because they help with aches, she said, and I’m always sore after work. I undressed, listening to the tap dripping in the quiet flat. I left the bathroom open, since the dog sometimes likes to come and sit next to the tub.

I dropped under the surface, feeling the water slide along the length of my body. I need to ask Agnes to try massage for her arthritis, I thought, then tried to stop thinking about patients. It would help her loneliness, too. Her shoulders relaxed when I checked her heart and she went still, like she was absorbing the touch.

I lay with just enough of my face above the surface to breathe, the water slipping over my chin. Pasta with pesto for dinner, I thought. A sound came through the liquid, and I raised my head to listen as water spilled from my ears. Someone was ringing the buzzer.

My order, finally, I thought. The book was meant to be delivered two days earlier. I pulled a sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms on over my wet skin, nudged Jasper back from the door, and ran down the stairs.

There are two doors before the street, and I was in the icy space between them when I saw who it was. Not a courier. The inner door closed behind me. As I opened the next one, the woman lifted her badge. “Do you have a moment to talk, Claire?”

She followed me up the stairs, which seemed to take a long time. My fingers were stiff and I had trouble with the keys. Jasper greeted her, offering her a stick from the towpath. My chest was bare under the sweatshirt, and I left her on the sofa to find a bra.

When I came back, her expression was neutral, but I could tell she’d been studying the room. I wondered what she made of it, and if she’d expected worse, considering my background. It was warm and the lamps were lit. There were books on the shelves, invitations on the fridge, a holly wreath above the mantle. She might have thought I’d made the best of a bad hand.

Or she noticed the open bottle of wine on the counter. The dog, who is half German shepherd, and the number of bolts on the door. It’s only at home, I wanted to tell her. I’m not that careful outside. I walk around at night in headphones. I sometimes fall asleep in minicabs, though not often, if I’m honest.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“DI Louisa Tiernan,” she said, unwinding her scarf. Her voice was clear and composed, with an Irish accent. The pipes squeaked as the man upstairs turned off a tap. She said, “There’s been a sighting.”

“Here?”

“In Namibia.” DI Tiernan clasped her hands on her knees, but she didn’t continue. I didn’t understand why she had come. This wasn’t news, there have been thousands of sightings.

“Why do you believe this one?”

She handed me an old photograph of my father holding a silver flask engraved with a crest. “Your father bought it at a shop in Mayfair forty years ago. A man has been seen carrying it in Windhoek. He’s in his sixties, about six feet tall, and speaks English without an accent.”

“Has he been arrested?”

“We’re coordinating with Interpol,” she said. She looked to be in her forties, which meant she was a teenager when it happened. She must have heard about the case, it was in the news for weeks, and since then has only become more famous. He was the first lord accused of murder since the eighteenth century.

“When will they arrest him?”

“You’ll be notified if charges are filed,” she said. I wondered if she was surprised to find herself investigating him, after all this time.

“Why are they waiting?”

“I can’t share those details.”

“Who told you about the flask?”

“Our source wants to remain anonymous,” she said. To avoid the embarrassment, I thought, when he turns out to be wrong. My father has been missing for twenty-six years. People have claimed to see him in almost every country in the world, posting long descriptions of their encounters in the forums about him.

“We hope that you’ll be able to help us confirm if it is him,” she said. They needed a DNA sample from me. The detective started to explain the process, while my wet hair dripped onto my sweatshirt. I thought of the full bathtub in the other room. I hadn’t been out of it for very long, the water would still be warm, the surface perfectly smooth.

The detective put on a pair of surgical gloves. I opened my mouth and she ran the swab against the inside of my cheek, then screwed it into a sterile plastic vial.

“I’m sorry to have to ask,” she said, “but has your father ever contacted you?”

“No. Of course not.” The curtains were open behind her, and I could see a Christmas tree in the flat across the road. My mouth still tasted like rubber from the glove. I wanted to ask what she would do next, what else she needed to prepare.

After she left, I pulled the drain from the tub, dried my hair, and changed into warm clothes. I boiled water for pasta and opened a jar of good pesto. There was no reason not to eat well, not to watch a show, not to sleep. I didn’t need to change my plans, because it wasn’t him, it hadn’t been any of the other times.

Though the flask is the sort of thing he’d keep, to remind him of the Clermont Club. The click of the lighter, bending his head with a cigarette in his mouth, betting on hands of chemin de fer.

He is a hedonist. That’s part of my fury—during all of this, even now, he’s somewhere enjoying himself.

 

The last time I saw my father was the weekend before the attack. He’d taken me to Luxardo’s in Notting Hill. I had a scoop of ice cream covered in coconut, so it looked like a snowball, and my father ordered a peppermint ice cream. It came with a stick of red- and-white candy, which he gave to me.

Someone was angry with me that day, a friend of mine from school. I can’t remember why now, but I remember how heavily it weighed on me, how bruising it seemed, and I remember how reassuring it was to be with my father.

I’ve gone over this visit so many times. Him in a dark suit, against the parlor’s striped green walls. He had a scratch on the back of his hand, how did that happen? Did he get it during his preparations? I know from one of the forums that the police found a pulped melon at his flat. Since reading that, I’ve had the idea of him setting a melon on the counter and bringing the pipe down on it again and again, working out how hard he’d need to swing. The idea seems absurd, but no more than the rest of it. Was there a moment—while he was scooping the melon pulp into a bin, maybe, or walking to our house—when he realized what he was doing? Did he almost change his mind?

I’ve been over all of it, his work and his hobbies and interests, looking for the warnings. He liked bullfights, he brought Mum to one in Madrid once. Should that have been a cause for alarm?

He also watched horror films sometimes, but only the ones with good reviews, the ones most people ended up seeing. He didn’t seek them out, as far as I know. He said that I didn’t need to be afraid of them, he explained the different special effects, he told me it wasn’t real blood.

Now everything seems like a warning, but you could do this for anyone. Pick out a few odd interests, a few bad days, and build a theory around it. You could do it for me. You could consider the fact that I haven’t moved on as proof of something wrong with me.  I’m thirty-four years old and a doctor at a practice in Archway. This shouldn’t still consume me. It never goes away. It’s like living in a country where there’s been a war. Sometimes you forget; sometimes, on a normal road, in daylight, you’re too frightened to breathe; sometimes you’re furious that it’s fallen to you now to understand what happened, to clean it up.

But he planned it. He came to our house that night wearing gloves and carrying a length of steel pipe. He’d used a saw to cut the pipe down to the right size, and he’d wrapped gaffer’s tape around its base so his hand wouldn’t slip.

He might have already made the weapon before we sat together in a booth at Luxardo’s. It’s difficult for me to think about that visit. Not because I could have stopped him, exactly. I was eight years old. But the scene seems grotesque. The little girl, accepting a stick of red-and-white candy from him. It’s like he made me complicit.

Reading Group Guide

1. Claire feels that her father’s affectionate treatment of her leading up to the night of the murder has made her somehow complicit. Discuss the way family members may feel guilty by association for a crime committed by someone close to them. How might inherited guilt and shame affect one’s character and the ways one thinks about blame, forgiveness, and atonement?

2. It is initially difficult for Claire to reconcile her memories of her father with the details of his heinous crime, prompting her obsessive search for the truth. What kind of evidence would you hope to find, if you were in her position? Would incontrovertible proof make you feel better, or worse?

3. Comparing London, where she lived as a child and lives now, with Scotland, where she relocated for the remainder of her adolescence after the murder, Claire concludes that London reminds her of her father and Scotland reminds her of her mother (page 51). Rather than becoming a doctor in London and pursuing her father’s case, she thinks, she should have stayed in Edinburgh and become a journalist or an editor. Do you think she made the right decision? What do her (real and imagined) life choices say about her?

4. Discuss Claire’s relationship with her younger brother, Robbie, who was fourteen months old at the time of the murder, and the individual ways they process their trauma. How has grief and anger manifested within both of them? Do you think Claire is right when she guesses that Robbie mistreats himself because he looks like their father, and “it’s the only act of revenge he can take” (page 70)?

5. Claire supposes her father “would think that he could be forgiven, that really he already has been” (page 21). How do you think he (and his privileged peers) conceptualized and rationalized the crime? Do you think forgiveness is always possible?

6. A Double Life was inspired by a true, unsolved crime: the Lord Lucan case, in which the nanny of the family of Lord Richard John Bingham, Seventh Earl of Lucan, was found murdered, and the earl subsequently disappeared without a trace. Popular belief indicates that he had intended to murder his wife but ended up killing the nanny by mistake in the dark. Some believe his wealthy friends assumed they would get away with helping him escape after the murder—and they did. Do you think that people with a certain amount of privilege are effectively above the law? How does class affect the justice system? What do you make of the enduring public fascination with this and other high society cold cases?

7. After the assault, the press immediately casts doubt on Claire’s mother when she blames her husband—the impending divorce proceedings, in which “she might have lost the house, custody, access to his money” (page 22), especially tarnish her credibility. Her father’s wealthy friend James says she was unstable and that no one ever knew “why he was with her” (page 22). How are gender and class dynamics at play here? Do you recall instances from real life in which a power imbalance cast doubt on a victim’s testimony? Are women victims judged differently or held to a different standard?

8. Discuss depictions of violence against women in popular entertainment and in the thriller genre specifically. Why do so many of novels in this genre fixate at length on detailed scenes of the abuse, mutilation, and humiliation of women’s bodies? Do you think these descriptions are an essential element of the storytelling, or unnecessary and voyeuristic? What are some alternative ways for writers to address gender-based violence in fiction?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

A Double Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Based on actual events, this novel has it all--suspense , family dynamics , a satisfying ending . It is well written and captivating .
Anonymous 7 months ago
An interesting read.
Anonymous 8 months ago
The story moves so slowly that I almost quit reading it, but the ending was very good.
WVBoo More than 1 year ago
I kept turning pages, then turning more pages, praying something would happen...anything at all... Nothing ever did. There is zero excitement in this book. Even worse, the story jumps around in time and location, but gives no indication it's doing so. I was so confused when I'd start a new chapter and there would be new characters, in some random town, doing random things, on a random day. I'd say the word random pretty much sums up the entire book. Even the climax seemed random. Such a disappointment. Despite my less than stellar review of this book, I'd still like to personally thank Penguin Books for sending me a copy of this novel, in exchange for my honest review.
wjane More than 1 year ago
A Double Life by Flynn Berry is an exceptional read of unbelievable thriller suspense fiction. I picked it up and did not stop reading until I read the last word. The book switches from present to past without indicating a time period and I did find that distracting at first. Well written exciting book with many bizarre twists until the very end of the book. Looking forward to reading her first book Under the Harrow.
TheBookishHooker More than 1 year ago
A Double Life follows Claire, the daughter of one of England's most notorious suspected killers. Claire's father is believed to have killed her nanny and seriously injured her mother while Claire and her brother slept upstairs. With the help of his friends, he's believed to have left the country never to be heard from again. She's tried to move on by changing her name, moving several times, and plunging into her career as a doctor. However, when she's contacted by the inspector on her father's case letting her know there's been a possible sighting, the past rushes back to take hold of her fears. Claire decides she will never move on until she's found the truth of what happened that night and if the father she loved was really a monster all along. The detail given to describing the crime and how it has affected Claire's life and the life of her brother is quite chilling. I love how the characters grow as the book advances and you begin to see them change as the truth begins to come to light. This is an amazing point in the book since the novel itself is actually pretty short. It really packs a lot of emotions in such a quick read. Other than the details of the murder and the ongoing theories and investigations, which are repeated several times, the first half of the book is actually slow going. Around the halfway mark, the action begins to pick up as Claire puts a plan into action to find the possible location of her father. From this point on, the book steps up the pace and was a much more enjoyable read for me than the first half. Overall, though, the novel was quite good and I look forward to finding more books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not enjoy
JulieB More than 1 year ago
3.5 ⭐️‘s. I was intrigued by the fact that the book was loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century—the Lord Lucan case. It was well written and interesting, but I didn’t care for the way it jumps between present and past, without warning at times. But it held my attention enough to make me curious about the details of the actual case. The story is told by the POV of the daughter—Claire—who is obsessed with finding her father. She is now a doctor, leading a quiet life in London. Her younger brother Robbie is a mess, with an addiction to pain meds. They’ve both changed their names so their past can remain hidden. Almost thirty years ago, Claire woke to noises and went downstairs to discover the body of their nanny—Emma—covered in blood. Her mother and father—Faye and Colin—were estranged at the time. Faye said Colin attacked her when she found him over Emma’s body. She escaped, ran for help and Colin fled the scene. His car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. His powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence and the first lord accused of murder in more than a century has been missing ever since. Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking for this ARC, in exchange for my honest review! #AdoubleLife #NetGalley
JulieB More than 1 year ago
3.5 ⭐️‘s. I was intrigued by the fact that the book was loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century—the Lord Lucan case. It was well written and interesting, but I didn’t care for the way it jumps between present and past, without warning at times. But it held my attention enough to make me curious about the details of the actual case. The story is told by the POV of the daughter—Claire—who is obsessed with finding her father. She is now a doctor, leading a quiet life in London. Her younger brother Robbie is a mess, with an addiction to pain meds. They’ve both changed their names so their past can remain hidden. Almost thirty years ago, Claire woke to noises and went downstairs to discover the body of their nanny—Emma—covered in blood. Her mother and father—Faye and Colin—were estranged at the time. Faye said Colin attacked her when she found him over Emma’s body. She escaped, ran for help and Colin fled the scene. His car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. His powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence and the first lord accused of murder in more than a century has been missing ever since. Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking for this ARC, in exchange for my honest review! #AdoubleLife #NetGalley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is about a daughter that gets revenge for a murder that her father committed. The story involves how the higher class of people in England are protected from the law because of privilege. She out smarts all the snobs!
Fictionophile More than 1 year ago
A compelling novel inspired by true events. Although this novel was very interesting, I really struggled with it at first. The name changes, coupled with the shifting timelines confused me. By the time I became used to the flow of the narrative, my enjoyment increased and by the time I reached the last third of the novel I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed the writing, and the story was compelling. Although it had some elements of a thriller, I wouldn’t really classify it as one… Overall, an absorbing read with a plot whammy near the end that surprised me. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is Flynn Berry's second novel; it follows Under the Harrow. A Double Life is inspired by a true murder that was reportedly committed by Lord Lucan. Lord Lucan supposedly murdered his children's nanny after he mistook the nanny for his wife. Lord Lucan was never seen again and nothing is definitvely known about what happened to him. Lord Lucan's wife died only recently, never saying anything more. In this novel, Flynn Berry imagines what might have happened. She tells her story largely through the eyes of the daughter, imagining what life was like for her, her mother and her brother following the horrific murder. Flashbacks about the relationship of the protagonist's parents and their friends add to the seeming veracity of the story. I found this book to be a page turner and finished it within a few days. There were some plot twists and some food for thought once the full story was told. Anyone out there who reads this, I will be interested in your take on the ending. Note this is a fictional account and does not in all respects follow what happened to the family. Thanks for this excellent read NetGalley and the publisher!
Buecherwurm161 More than 1 year ago
Interesting Read. I was a First Read Winner of this book and I really enjoyed it. It was loosely based on a real life murder case and told from the point of few of the daughter. Going back and forth between the time of the murder and present time it held my attention from the first page. I hate when I get so into a book that I have a hard time putting it down, because the house work suffers, but sometimes we just have to make sacrifices. Flynn Berry did a wonderful job with this book and she made a new fan of me, and of course I had to look up the story about Lord Lucan.
Katie__B More than 1 year ago
There was a simplicity aspect to the book that I really enjoyed. The author didn't try to make this an overly complicated mystery with so many twists and turns that end up hurting the story rather than enhancing it. The book itself is only around 270 pages so the story doesn't drag on and on as you are wondering what happened to the father who disappeared after a woman was murdered. Ended up finishing this in a day as it was an enjoyable read and I find it fascinating that the book was loosely based on a true story. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
booklover- More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars Claire's father has been missing almost 30 years. He disappeared after committing a brutal crime against her mother and her mother's friend. Claire's mother survived to tell people that her husband had done this. Her father's family disputed it. Her father's car was found abandoned a short distance away, but he disappeared. Over the years there have been sightings, but it was never her father. The theory is that his family somehow smuggled him out of the country. Claire is tired of not knowing if she's the daughter of a murderer or a man framed by someone else. Claire will soon learn how far she'll go to finally find the truth. This was an engrossing look at Claire's life ... her memories of her father, her life as a child, her life as an adult, trying to take care of her younger brother who has issues of his own... all told in her own voice. This is not a highly suspenseful book, but it did hold my attention. The ending came as a surprise, one I didn't see coming. Many thanks to the author / Penguin Group - Viking / Netgalley for the digital copy of A DOUBLE LIFE. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.