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The Semantics of Murder

I stayed up late last night to finish Aifric Campbell's The Semantics of Murder. The novel, which she wrote whilst studying at the University of East Anglia, is based on the real case of the murder of Robert Montague, a gifted Professor of Philosophy at UCLA. Montague was found strangled in his home in Beverly Hills in 1971. His killer has never been caught. The story opens, however, by following his younger brother, Jay, in present day London. Jay is a psychoanalyst who had found his brother on the bathroom floor on that fateful day. Campbell, who studied linguistics in Sweden and therefore brings her knowledge of semantics, had always known about Montague; his case intrigued her enough to want to make it the basis for this brilliantly structured and very well-written debut novel. We are treated to a somewhat chilling character in Jay - at first he seems merely distant - but as the story develops questions are raised. He is mining his patients for their stories, which he writes under a pseudonym to great acclaim. His casual disregard for his patients has devastating consequences. The ending is sublime and brings us back to where Freud began.

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