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July 8, 2014

Wrong Man, Right Book

We haven’t even had a serious scorcher yet, and yet do I say unto you, Fall is just around the corner, and with it, the new season’s books. There are a number of titles we’re excited about, and perhaps chief among them is The Wrong Man, by Laura Wilson. The third in her “Ted Stratton” series, about a London cop during and after World War II, this was published in England as A Capital Crime. We had a couple reasons for retitling it. First, we found “A Capital Crime” to be a bit of a snooze, as titles go, offering not a hint of the fact that the book is absolutely riveting. And second, “capital” has more than one meaning in the UK – the title thus refers not only to a crime committed in London but also to something of a splendid crime, really quite top-notch. We thought that second meaning would be lost on a lot of American readers, leaving us with nothing but the snooze. Nope, “Capital” had to go.

So how did we come up with The Wrong Man? Our new title in fact refers to two of the stories that wind like strangling threads through the book. First up is Inspector Stratton, under increasing political pressure to solve a couple of grisly murders – one of a woman who clearly put her trust in, well, not the right man. And second is beautiful, aristocratic Diana Calthrop, last seen breaking hearts in The Innocent Spy, now a lot the worse for wear. Some of that wear is merely the passage of time, but much of it can be chalked up to Diana’s habit of making bad romantic choices, a habit that has at long last caught up with her. Incredibly, the icy society beauty is now something approaching desperate, and desperate people rarely make smart moves.

Like all the book in the “Stratton” series, The Wrong Man is rooted in fact, in criminal cases that played out in real life. Wilson is not the first person to be fascinated by the case at the heart of The Wrong Man; it has been dramatized several times, most successfully in the chilling 1971 film “10 Rillington Place,” starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt, with Judy Geeson a very long way from “To Sir With Love.”

We love the “Stratton” series; its combination of stunning “you are there” period detail, ripped-from-the-police-blotter crime, and nuanced characterizations offers a really full roster of reading pleasures. And there’s no question that this is the strongest title in the series so far.

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