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Hear No Evil: Shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger 2023

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I would highly recommend this for fans of historical crime fiction and those looking for something just a little bit different in the genre. In fact, as we are told Rottenrow could also be derived from the Gaelic phrase Rat-an-righ (road of the kings) perhaps some people in the congregation would have more readily understood a sign indicating a crown instead. Campbell's deafness is central pillar of this book, it’s the reason for her poverty, the ordeals she has been subjected to and possibly the court case itself. The book really shines a light on the difficulties of communication for the deaf community before there was a formalised sign language.

Hear No Evil is a gripping novel which brings both early 19th century Edinburgh and Glasgow evocatively to life. Hear No Evil is historical fiction loosely based on the true story of Jean Campbell, a deaf woman in 1817 arrested for being seen allegedly throwing her child into the river Clyde, the book follows the court case, Jean’s interactions with her interpreter Richard Kinniburgh and navigates through a world of deafness. Based on a landmark case in Scottish legal history, Hear No Evil a richly atmospheric story of a woman's refusal to be identified by her deafness. Those with power, like the trial judge Lord Succoth, are hostile to the poor, condemn them for their poverty and denigrate their morals.

It does so naturally, with a light touch that doesn’t detract from the swiftly-moving mystery at its heart.

The former Labour Home Secretary has written a series of witty memoirs, and he’s regularly regaled Book Festival audiences with colourful tales of life beyond Westminster. I deliberately decided not to find out what happened in the real case so that I was in the dark as to the outcome and anxiously waiting to see if justice would be done. This was an interesting read, however it unfortunately failed to consistently hold my attention, the pacing was just a little too slow and seemed at odds with the urgency of the matter at hand.Speaking of realism, I used my iPad’s dictionary function so much while reading Hear No Evil - Scottish dialect of the 19th century was odd. The fact that she has so many modern attitudes – being open about her desire for her labourer boyfriend, not minding that he’s from the other side of the sectarian divide, and the fact that she ‘shows no shame or remorse’ about living in sin seals the deal.

One of three major performances this year looking at today’s Scotland through the lens of its past, present and future, Hear No Evil is based on the debut novel by Sarah Smith. As he goes about trying to establish what really happened to Campbell in Glasgow, Smith seems to be painting him more and more as a person completely rooted in his times. Jean is deaf and although she was treated in many cases as a freak and mad, the development of signed languages meant Kinniburgh's status allowed his involvement to give the case a defence against her potential hanging verdict. Trevor Royle speaks with Magnus Linklater at the Edinburgh International Book Festival While Scotland has been free of major military conflict since the 1940s, it could have been different had the Cold War escalated. Sibbald, a gruff, heavyset man, said little as he led Robert up a narrow central staircase to a landing that fanned out in a circle and was punctuated by dark wooden doors.Based on a case from Scottish legal history, Smith's novel skilfully combines crime fiction with a woman's struggle to speak the truth. The narrative voice dips in and out of the time period of the book, it’s not quite as antiquated as an actual book from the early 1800s but, for a lot of the book, it resides in a sort of vaguely 19th century tone, matching how the characters talk. At first, she wanted her to speak on the page using sign language – but, well, how was that even possible?

The is another deaf character in the book – David, the vicar’s son, a kind and intelligent man, but we do not get his perspective on things, unfortunately.Sarah Smith's stirring novel is a fictionalised account of the real-life criminal prosecution of a deaf woman for infanticide. At one point there is even a conversation about translating vs interpreting Jean in Court and how it would be possible to deny her truth and reword it for the sake of the jury, again this highlighted how even those sympathetic to disability hold the power. Already, perhaps, you can see both why Smith was drawn to this story and – because of her insistence that early sign language be a key part of it – the difficulties inherent in telling it.

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