Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Reputation by Sarah Vaughan
7/5/22; 336 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan is a highly recommended thriller and courtroom drama.

Emma Webster is  an MP in parliament as a member of the Labor party. She spends part of her time in the house she shares in London with other members of parliament but as a divorced mother lives in her home in Portsmouth with her 14-year-old daughter, Flora. Part of her public life involves trolls, who are ever present but come out especially vicious after she does a photo shoot. Now Flora is learning that same lesson as she is experiencing bulling instigated by her former best friend, only Flora snaps and retaliates, which is a poor decision with consequences.

Emma knows that a woman's reputation can be easily destroyed and has been supporting new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Flora's situation is a perfect example of this and highlights how a reactionary response is never a good choice and social media seems to make everything worse. Oh, and by the way, there is also the body of a dead man found at their home and Emma is arrested for the crime.

This is a well written thriller and courtroom drama, but is does move at a slow deliberate pace, especially at the beginning. Emma narrates most chapters but a few are from other character's point-of-view.  Once the trial starts and courtroom scenes make up most of the narrative the plot becomes more tense and compelling. Clearly Reputation should especially appeal to those who appreciate courtroom dramas. The real impetus for reading this thoughtful novel is for the topic of a reputation being damaged and how the public spotlight can bring with it a great deal of pressure.

Emma is an empathetic character but not presented in an especially personable manner. She is presented as a strong woman Clearly, the actual social issues, gender inequality, bullying, cyber and in person, and the media controlling the narrative, are the true focus of the novel rather than the individual characters. The message is the true main character here.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

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