Thursday, December 20, 2018

Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark (2000)

In Aiding and Abetting, Muriel Spark takes the real life story of John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, and puts her spin on what might have happened to him. Lord Lucan, on the night of November 7, 1974, killed the family's nanny, thinking she was his wife. After realizing his mistake, he attempted to bludgeon his wife to death. She escaped, and he faded away into the night. Through the years, people around the world have reported seeing Lord Lucan, but he eluded the police and Interpol. 

Muriel Spark has created an intricate and fast moving plot in Aiding and Abetting. The novel begins with Dr. Hildegard Wolf, famed Paris psychiatrist, who uses her own brand of revolutionary psychiatry, which includes talking ad nauseum about herself and driving her patients to distraction. 

Dr. Wolf has two patients, Lucky and Walker, each of whom resemble Lord Lucan. She works out that the two men have a connection and wants to figure out which one of the men is the real Lord Lucan and which one is the decoy. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Wolf runs into some complications. Lucky and Walker know about Dr. Wolf's past in which she was known in Bavaria as Beate Pappenheim, a fake stigmatic and healer, who bilked people out of large amounts of money. She has managed to evade arrest. 

Lucky and Walker want to blackmail Dr. Wolf into paying them to keep her secret. Life has been hard for these gentlemen as they've gotten older. The people who have financed Lord Lucan's life on the run are either dead or reluctant to part with their money. 

The story takes off from here as Dr. Wolf steals away to London. She doesn't tell her boyfriend, the reliable Jean-Pierre, where she's gone. He talks to her patients and friends in an attempt to find clues as to where she has gone.

Meanwhile, Lacey, the daughter of one of Lord Lucan's friends, decides to write a book about Lord Lucan and wants to interview him. Along with Dr. Murray, another friend of Lucan's, the two strike out and manage to cross paths with Lucan several times, but Dr. Murray and Lacey, who have fallen in love, don't realize Lucan is right under their noses.

Among the many characters who populate the novel, two are my favorites. Jean-Pierre, the strong, dependable boyfriend who never judges Dr. Wolf, comes up with a solution to Dr. Wolf's problem. Then, there's the harried Father Ambrose who claims to be a friend of Lucan's. Sometimes he appears to help Lucan and other times, he works against him. 

Aiding and Abetting is a story that moves from Paris, London, Scotland, and then Africa. Spark's wicked sense of humor is fun to read, and she deals with several themes such as blood, religion and class. An ironic twist at the end took me by surprise and reminded me of something that you'd find in the satire of Evelyn Waugh.

I found Aiding and Abetting to be another page turner by Muriel Spark, and I recommend this novel.

I read Aiding and Abetting as part of #readingmuriel2018, hosted by heavenali.


  1. Wonderful review. This is definitely one I want to read. If not this year, as I am running out of time, then perhaps next year.

  2. What a crazy story. I wonder what happened to the real guy.