...this is probably the most forensic, elegantly written and compelling account of one of the 20th century’s great political scandals and it could not have been told in its entirety while Thorpe, who died in December 2014, was alive. It’s a real page-turner. An entertaining mix of tragedy and farce, involving people in high and low places, amply justifying its subtitle.
[Preston's] laserlike focus, while admirable in its no-stone-unturned way, does bog things down about halfway through; a reader wonders, when is the rubber going to really hit the road? This isn’t a book that you can digest in fits and starts. The long cast of characters and the intricacies of the British Parliament require some serious sitting-down time ... Preston, like any good journalist, has quite an ear for quotes and character sketches, and Scandal is sprinkled with gems that reflect an England long gone.
Preston has written this page-turner like a political thriller, with urgent dialogue, well-staged scenes, escalating tension and plenty of cliffhangers, especially once the trial begins. But no matter how hard he tries to convince us of Thorpe’s 'magnetic personality,' his central character comes off as selfish, arrogant and manipulative.
Preston’s description of the buffoonish, bungled murder attempt and of Thorpe’s Old Bailey 'trial of the century' are well-done. Nevertheless, the book’s final third, in which Scott is further victimized by the legal system, makes for depressing reading. Preston refrains from editorializing, but it’s impossible not to be appalled by the ambient homophobia of the period ... In the midst of this awfulness, Preston’s account of the fight to decriminalize male homosexuality in Britain is especially enjoyable.
This is the story John Preston tells with tremendous energy and narrative flair in A Very English Scandal. The tone he evokes is more Kind Hearts and Coronets than The Godfather as the half-mad Thorpe and his imbecilic cronies stagger from plot to idiotic plot ... riveting.
Author John Preston bears witness in A Very English Scandal, a book that details the downfall of prominent politician Jeremy Thorpe, who was tried in 1979 for conspiring to murder his former male lover ... Particularly sticky for Thorpe was the timing of their affair, which occurred before laws decriminalizing sex between men took effect ... Preston is witty in his speculations and concise in his writing. He also places his story in context, ferreting out charming detail.