cover image A Personal History of Thirst

A Personal History of Thirst

John Burdett. William Morrow & Company, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14399-2

Former lawyer Burdett's first novel cleverly exploits a love triangle to highlight the mordant ironies of the British class system. Couched in terms of psychological intrigue, this three-part thriller uncovers deception involving ambitious James Knight, a defender turned prosecutor; Oliver Thirst, his former client; and Daisy Smith, an Anglomaniac American. In the first part, Daisy is charged with Oliver's murder. The second part is a flashback to the late 1970s, which establishes and develops the dark triangle. James, Oliver and Daisy all seek escape from their respective places in society. James, not being of blue-blood public-school stock, feels an outsider in the legal ranks even as he rises to the verge of receiving silks as a Queen's Counsel. That's when Oliver, trying to polish his native intelligence with schooling in order to escape the streets, reenters his life. Though it's unethical to continue contact with a former client, not to mention socially inadvisable to step down the class ladder for tea, James does so because of a secret in his own past. Meanwhile, Daisy is trying to erase the memory of a brutally abusive father while her British mother moves towards a devastating end. A convoluted strategem fabricated to free Daisy hides several sinister truths as the final battle of wits ensues in Daisy's trial, which consumes much of the third and most compelling-and funny-part of the novel. As legal machinations and revelations of cunning duplicity mount, Burdett drives his sharp-eyed amorality tale to its startling conclusion. (Feb.)