Cover image for Aiding & abetting
Title:
Aiding & abetting
Author:
Spark, Muriel.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
166 pages ; 20 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385501538
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Muriel Spark, one of Britain's greatest living novelists, returns to the literary stage with her most wickedly amusing and subversive novel in years, a savagely witty tale of murder and escape based on the notorious real-life case of Lord Lucan. A dissolute member of the British aristocracy, "Lucky" Lucan has been missing since he accidentally murdered his children's nanny in an abortive attempt on his wife's life. His puzzling disappearance in the mid-seventies created a sensation in Britain and a tantalizing mystery as yet unsolved. In Muriel Spark's daring and sophisticated fictional version of Lucan's flight, his adversary is Beate Pappenheim, a fake Bavarian stigmatic who embezzled millions from devout followers before assuming a new identity as a celebrated psychiatrist. These two inhabitants of the farther shores of morality collide memorably in Spark's brilliant new novel, where "aiding and abetting" Lord Lucan's well-padded fugitive life is the name of the beastly upper-class game, and a duel of wits plays out with potentially mortal consequences. The artful murderer meets the master con-woman, but who will emerge victorious? In part a rumination on the nature of evil, in part a damning indictment of upper-class mores,Aiding and Abettingis a dark and dazzling entertainment from a writer whose clear-eyed judgments never intrude upon her narrative legerdemain. Here is proof beyond doubt that Muriel Spark retains her crown as the most distinguished and entertaining moral satirist of her day.


Author Notes

Muriel Spark has been called "our most chillingly comic writer since Evelyn Waugh" by the London Spectator, and the New Yorker praised her novel Memento Mori ri (1959) as "flawless." Her fiction is marked by its remarkable diversity, wit, and craftsmanship. "She happens to be, by some rare concatenation of grace and talent, an artist, a serious---and most accomplished---writer, a moralist engaged with the human predicament, wildly entertaining, and a joy to read" (SRSR). She became widely known in the United States when the New Yorker devoted almost an entire issue to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). Set in Edinburgh in the 1930s, this is the story of a schoolteacher, her unorthodox approach to life, and its effect on her select group of adolescent girls. Though their idol turns out to have feet of clay, she leaves an indelible mark on their lives. The Girls of Slender Means (1963), also warmly praised, is a sardonic look at the vivacity of youth and the anxieties of young womanhood. Reviewing The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) for the New Republic, Honor Tracy wrote: "There is an abundance here of invention, humor, poetry, wit, perception, that all but takes the breath away. . . . The story, in fact, is pure adventure, with the suspense as artfully maintained as anywhere by Graham Greene, but this is only one ingredient. There are memorable descriptions of the Holy Land, fascinating insights into the jumble of intrigue and piety surrounding the Holy Places, and penetrating studies of Arabs. . . . In each of [Spark's] novels heretofore one of her qualities has tended to predominate over the others. Here for the first time they are all impressively marshaled side by side, resulting in her best work so far."

The daughter of an Englishwoman and a Scottish-Jewish father, Spark was born and educated in Edinburgh. After her marriage in 1938, she lived for some years in Central Africa, a period rarely reflected in her work. During World War II, she returned to Britain, where she worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office after the breakup of her marriage. She has been a magazine editor and written poetry and literary criticism. Spark has lived in London's Camberwell section, the setting of The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), but now makes her home in New York. Her novels reflect her conversion to Roman Catholicism.

(Bowker Author Biography) Writer Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh on February 1, 1918. In 1934-1935 she took a course in commercial correspondence and précis writing at Heriot-Watt College. After her marriage in 1937, she lived for some years in Central Africa. During World War II, she returned to Britain, where she worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office after the breakup of her marriage.

After the war, she began her literary career. She became General Secretary of the Poetry Society, worked as an editor and wrote studies of Mary Shelley, John Masefield and the Brontë sisters. Her first book of poetry, The Fanfarlo and Other Verse, was published in 1952 and her first novel, The Comforters, was published in 1957. She wrote over twenty books including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Finishing School. She won numerous awards and honors including the 1965 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Mandelbaum Gate, the 1992 U. S. Ingersoll Foundation T. S. Eliot Award, the 1997 David Cohen British Literature Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1993 she became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to literature. The Scottish Arts Council created the Muriel Spark International Fellowship in 2004. She died on April 13, 2006.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Spark is one of Britain's most distinguished novelists, with 21 books to her credit, written over the course of a four-decade-long career. Her latest novel shows no diminishment of her still-abiding qualities, which include succinct storytelling, realistic characters finding themselves in fantastic yet fascinating moral dilemmas, and an ability to see the humorous side of making choices between good and evil. With great imagination, Spark tightly weaves a story based on a true event in British political-social life. In 1974, the seventh earl of Lucan allegedly murdered his children's nanny, mistaking her for his wife, whom he then severely injured. He subsequently disappeared and was declared officially dead in 1999. As Spark has it, two men claiming to be Lucan show up, separately, at the Paris office of Dr. Hildegard Wolf, an eminent psychiatrist. Dr. Wolf has a previous identity: years ago she passed herself off as a stigmatic but was exposed as a fraud and then disappeared carrying a bundle of cash from a fake fund for the poor. As it turns out, the two men claiming to be the earl of Lucan have come, not to beg for money from Dr. Wolf but to try blackmailing it out of her. Identity--people posing as someone else, people having doubles with whom they can exchange places--is the theme Spark plays with here in this intelligent but, above all, entertaining novel of deception. --Brad HooperAdult Books Young adult recommendations in this issue have been contributed by the Books for Youth editorial staff and by reviewers Nancy Bent, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, Patty Engelmann, Sharon Greene, Leone McDermott, Candace Smith, Diana Tixier Herald, and Linda Waddle. Titles recommended for teens are marked with the following symbols: YA, for books of general YA interest; YA/C, for books with particular curriculum value; YA/L, for books with a limited teenage audience; YA/M, for books best suited to mature teens.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Terse, astringent and blessed with a wicked satiric wit, Spark has been casting a jaundiced eye on British society in more than 20 works of fiction, including Memento Mori and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Here she spins an inspired "what-if" scenario on the criminal career of the notorious seventh Earl of Lucan, convicted in absentia in 1974 of bludgeoning his children's nanny to death and severely wounding his wife, before eluding the police and leaving the country. It was clear at the time, Spark reminds readers, that "Lucky" Lucan could not have avoided capture unless he was liberally supplied with funds, undoubtedly by other members of the arrogant aristocracy who considered class loyalty more important than justice, and whose warped morality convinced them that they were above the law. Spark's ingenious plot, set in the present, features two men who identify themselves as the fugitive Lucan when they (separately) consult a notorious Paris psychiatrist, Hildegard Wolf. Wolf's unconventional methods have made her famous, but in this case she is bewildered by the situation until one of the men threatens her with blackmail. Lucan, it turns out, is not the only one with blood on his hands. Wolf was born Beate Pappenheim in Bavaria, and under that name perpetrated a notorious scam in which she passed herself off as a stigmatic, creating her "wounds" with her menstrual blood. After soliciting contributions to perform "miracles," she absconded with millions. As the narrative unfolds, the reader is immersed in a puzzling maze with three characters who are all imposters and fraudsDone of whom is a murderer, too. Only a writer of Spark's caliber could get away with the coincidences in the blatantly manipulated plot but, then again, she writes brilliantly about the criminal mind. (Feb. 20) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

After a recent foray into memoir-writing, Spark returns to more familiar territory with this speculative novel about the possible fate of Lord Lucan, who disappeared from public view in 1974 after his wife was nearly bludgeoned to death and their nanny was murdered. Lucan was tried for the crimes and found guilty in absentia and has never been seen again. This novel, in fact, features two putative Lucans, both of whom consult a shadowy psychiatrist called Hildegard Wolf, who is also based on an actual person. Wolf has developed a flourishing practice by employing the unusual method of discussing her own past before allowing her patients to unburden themselves. The two Lucans, one calling himself "Walker," have uncovered the doctor's own mysterious past in which, as a struggling student years earlier, she was convicted of fraud for posing as a stigmatic with natural healing powers. These three circle around one another in a dance of increasing intensity and danger. Most libraries will wish to purchase this taut and engrossing psychological tale. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/00.]DBarbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., ON (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The receptionist looked tinier than ever as she showed the tall, tall Englishman into the studio of Dr. Hildegard Wolf, the psychiatrist who had come from Bavaria, then Prague, Dresden, Avila, Marseilles, then London, and now settled in Paris. "I have come to consult you," he said, "because I have no peace of mind. Twenty-five years ago I sold my soul to the Devil." The Englishman spoke in a very foreign French. "Would you feel easier," she said, "if we spoke in English? I am an English speaker of a sort since I was a student." "Far easier," he said, "although, in a sense, it makes the reality more distressing. What I have to tell you is an English story." Dr. Wolf's therapeutic methods had been perfected by herself. They had made her virtually the most successful psychiatrist in Paris, or at least the most sought-after. At the same time she was tentatively copied; those who tried to do so generally failed. The method alone did not suffice. Her personality was needed as well. What she did for the most part was talk about herself throughout the first three sessions, turning only casually on the problems of her patients; then, gradually, in an offhand way she would induce them to begin to discuss themselves. Some patients, angered, did not return after the first or at least second session, conducted on these lines. Others remonstrated, "Don't you want to hear about my problem?" "No, quite frankly, I don't very much." Many, fascinated, returned to her studio and it was they who, so it was widely claimed, reaped their reward. By now her method was famous and even studied in the universities. The Wolf method. "I sold my soul to the Devil." "Once in my life," she said, "I had a chance to do that. Only I wasn't offered enough. Let me tell you about it . . ." He had heard that she would do just this. The friend who had recommended her to him, a priest who had been through her hands during a troubled period, told him, "She advised me not to try to pray. She advised me to shut up and listen. Read the Gospel, she said. Jesus is praying to you for sympathy. You have to see his point of view, what he had to put up with. Listen, don't talk. Read the Bible. Take it in. God is talking, not you." Her new patient sat still and listened, luxuriating in the expenditure of money which he would have found impossible only three weeks ago. For twenty-five years, since he was struck down in England by a disaster, he had been a furtive fugitive, always precariously beholden to his friends, his many friends, but still, playing the role of benefactors, their numbers diminishing. Three weeks ago his nickname Lucky had become a solidified fact. He was lucky. He had in fact discovered some money waiting for him on the death of one of his main aiders and abetters. It had been locked in a safe, waiting for him to turn up. He could afford to have a conscience. He could now consult at leisure one of the most expensive and most highly recommended psychiatrists in Paris. "You have to listen to her, she makes you listen, first of all," they said?"they" being at least four people. He sat blissfully in his smart clothes and listened. He sat before her desk in a leather chair with arms; he lounged. It was strange how so many people of the past had been under the impression he had already collected the money left for him in a special account. Even his benefactor's wife had not known about its existence. He might, in fact, have been anybody. But she arranged for the money to be handed over without a question. His name was Lucky and lucky he was indeed. But money did not last. He gambled greatly. The windows of Dr. Wolf's consulting rooms on the Boulevard St. Germain were double-glazed to allow only a pleasing hum of traffic to penetrate. "I don't know how it struck you," said Hildegard (Dr. Wolf) to her patient. "But to me, selling one's soul to the Devil involves murder. Anything less is not worthy of the designation. You can sell your soul to a number of agents, let's face it, but to the Devil there has to be a killing or so involved. In my case, it was many years ago, I was treating a patient who became psychologically dependent on me. A young man, not very nice. His problem was a tendency to suicide. One was tempted to encourage him in his desire. He was simply nasty, simply cruel. His fortune was immense. I was offered a sum of money by his cousin, the next of kin, to slide this awful young man down the slope. But I didn't. I sensed the meanness of the cousin, and doubted whether he would really have parted with the money once my patient was dead. I refused. Perhaps, if I had been offered a substantially larger sum, I would have made that pact with the Devil. Who knows? As it was, I said no, I wouldn't urge the awful young man to take his own life. In fact I encouraged him to live. But to do otherwise would have definitely, I think, led to his death and I would have been guilty of murder." "Did he ever take his life, then?" "No, he is alive today." The Englishman was looking at Hildegard in a penetrating way as if to read her true thoughts. Perhaps he wondered if she was in fact trying to tell him that she doubted his story. He wanted to get away from her office, now. He had paid for his first session on demand, a very stiff fee, as he reckoned, of fifteen hundred dollars for three quarters of an hour. But she talked on. He sat and listened with a large bulging leather briefcase at his feet. For the rest of the period she told him she had been living in Paris now for over twelve years, and found it congenial to her way of life and her work. She told him she had a great many friends in the fields of medicine, music, religion and art, and although well into her forties, it was just possible she might still marry. "But I would never give up my profession," she said. "I do so love it." His time was up, and she had not asked him a single question about himself. She took it for granted he would continue with her. She shook hands and told him to fix his next appointment with the receptionist. Which, in fact, he did. It was towards the end of that month that Hildegard asked him her first question. "What can I do for you?" she said, as if he was positively intruding on her professional time. He gave her an arrogant look, sweeping her face. "First," he said, "I have to tell you that I'm wanted by the police on two counts: murder and attempted murder. I have been wanted for over twenty years. I am the missing Lord Lucan." Excerpted from Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.