Unusually for a crime novel, it is not entirely clear whether any crime has even been committed for much of the first half of Frances Fyfield's The Nature of the Beast. Amy Petty, a troubled and apparently pathetic woman, walks away from a major train crash, leaving her husband, a large, brutish debarred barrister, engaged in a complex libel suit (he is accused of cruelty to animals at least, bestiality at worse), to conclude that she has perished in the fire, her body never to be recovered.
John Box, QC, and his junior (and mistress), Elizabeth Manser, are hired by Douglas Petty to fight his corner in the libel case against the national newspaper that anonymously received a video and photographs of the alleged act of gross indecency. While Box is a handsome, intellectual and astonishingly self-centred married man, Elizabeth is lonely and giving. With such rich characterisations and thoughtful scene setting, readers looking for a fast-paced, shock-a-chapter traditional thriller might be somewhat confused, if not sorely disappointed.
Those familiar with her work and those looking for something more than a quick whodunit, will find a finely written, intelligent, psychological novel about the different kinds of criminals that fill the corridors of our courts and the cells of our prisons, and what makes one criminal, or one crime, more or less repellent than another. --Carey Green