What a book - and what a character. I loved every minute . . . I should imagine that had Stonehouse's life story occurred to John Le Carré as a plot for one of his novels, he would have dismissed it as too far-fetched. Completely absorbing and told with huge compassion, integrity and skill. Stonehouse was ahead of his times in many ways, yet decadent, deceitful but also very engaging and intelligent . . . it's really the power of his personality that drives the book, which is ripe for dramatic interpretation of some kind, either television or film. Julian Hayes is a born storyteller too, and his family certainly gifted him with a remarkable story that lingers long after the final reading.
[Hayes], a criminal lawyer, mounts the case for the prosecution. This is that Stonehouse was an avaricious chancer who faked his death in a last-throw attempt to escape a series of failed and fraudulent business dealings in which he had entangled innocent friends and relatives, including the author's father. While posing "as if he were the innocent victim of the entire, bizarre spectacle", Stonehouse was a "callous" man who brought "a tidal wave of distress, anguish and ruin crashing down on his extended family, not only Barbara and their children, but also dragging his nephew, Michael, and his young family under with them.
The minister's nephew recounts an extraordinary life . . . The book is a vivid account of how, in the 1960s and 1970s, Stonehouse - once tipped as a future Labour prime minister - betrayed his country, made a mockery of domestic and international law, ripped off investors and friends, humiliated both Harold Wilson and Parliament and shattered his own family and then, when the jaws of his self-made trap began to close around him, organised and executed a fake-your-own-death escape of such breathtaking chutzpah, he later tried to explain it as the work of a second personality living within him.
What a book. I didn't have to turn the pages. They turned themselves . . . Julian's sharp, succinct writing weaves fact and detail together into a captivating narrative . . . the authentic truth from the perspective of one who was a witness. Julian Hayes is perfectly placed to tell this story . . . His legal expertise makes sense of criminal proceedings, but while he beautifully lays out the factual detail, it is the human side of this very personal story that is so captivating. Some of this obtained through conversations with his family but also the recollections of a young Julian, who witnessed much of what is shared through the innocent eyes of a child. This is most definitely a must read.