The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell – review

Published by Faber

Publication date – 19 January 2023

Source – review copy

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

Detective Caius Beauchamp is out for his morning run when he finds the body of a young woman on Hampstead Heath. As he investigates the death, he is drawn into a world of wealth, aristocracy and influence. But do the other half really have it better?

How can you not love a book that starts with a 30th birthday party in a McDonalds? You can’t not. You can however almost immediately dislike the host Rupert Beauchamp, no relation, a spoiled brat, heir apparent to a grumpy old aristocrat, and someone who feels that hosting his party in such a venue shows just how great he is, and how poor everyone else is. He treats his girlfriend Clemmie terribly, and is interested, bordering on obsessed with Nell, who has her own issues with Rupert. In fact the other half are a self-centred group of people who feel that their role in life is to look down on others and laugh at how much less they have. You can imagine them burning £20 in front of a homeless person.

Caius is a character the reader immediately connects with. He is on a health kick to try and win back his ex-girlfriend who has stormed off back to her native France. He secretly hates it but bravely eats quinoa in front of his colleagues. He is diligent in his work, determined from the moment he stumbles across Clemmie’s body to find out who killed her. He is the antithesis of the pool of suspects. His are working class origins. He has worked hard to get where he is, hasn’t had things handed to him like Rupert and his friends, doesn’t make money being an influencer on social media like Clemmie.

The rapport between Caius and his colleagues DS Matt Cheung and DS Amy Noakes is great to read. There is a warmth and camaraderie that is apparent from the off. There’s humour, from light quips to the darker side of comedy, as you would imagine there is in an actual police force, or any group of workers for that matter. Yes Caius has his issues but it was refreshing to see them dealt with a light hand, and did not make him the detective with a dark and troubled past that is often present in fiction.

The mystery itself is engaging. Who was Clemmie? What kind of character was she and who took her life? There is a small group of suspects and Caius is sure that things aren’t as they first appear.  The group isn’t that likeable. There are some who seem nicer than others then do things that show how they are selfish, or conniving in a different way.  There are other smaller story-lines that emerge but that link to the main story. The clues are left for the reader to find, often just as Caius spots them and the dénouement when it comes, even though I had figured out who the killer was, does not disappoint.

A cracking police procedural shot through with humour. I loved it. I’m already eager for more from Caius and his colleagues. Hopefully that wait won’t be very long.

Highly recommended.

You can buy a copy of The Other Half here.

(This is an affiliate link. I may make a little money if you buy through it. You can also find The Other Half at your local independent bookshop).

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