“Arthur & George” by Julian Barnes

“Arthur” is the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous Victorian writer and creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, while “George” is a Midlands solicitor George Edalji. While the two men grow up in very different circumstances, their worlds are brought together by the crimes known in the press as The Great Wryley Outrages. The first half of the novel develops the characters of Arthur and George and leads into of the events surrounding the crime.

Based on true events, this is not a book for a quick read on a Sunday afternoon, but an involving, compelling story that requires time to consider and absorb fully. Julian Barnes has obviously put an amazing amount of research into this book, and it reads as a biography of the two contrasting men, with the investigation into The Great Wryley Outages as the device that brings the two threads of the story together. It is a completely engrossing crime story based around a miscarriage of justice, and it almost seems hard to believe it is based on real events, and although the story is set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the themes are as relevant today as they were then, and include faith, justice and race.

The book itself offers fascinating insights into the lives and societies inhabited by the two title characters, as well as providing an important historical element in the form of the development of the Court of Criminal Appeal.

It is a beautifully crafted story and a wonderful combination of excellent character observation and intriguing crime investigation. Highly recommended.

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