(hb; 1992: third book in the William Monk series)
From the inside flap:
"After a brilliant military career, bravely serving the crown and country in India, esteemed General Thaddeus Carlyon finally meets death, not in the frenzy of battle, but at an elegant London dinner party. In a bizarre incident that shocks aristocratic London, General Carlyon is killed in what first appears to be a freak accident. But the General's beautiful wife, Alexandra, readily confesses that she killed him -- a story she clings to even under the shadow of the gallows.
"Investigator Thomas Monk, nurse Hester Latterly, and brilliant Oliver Rathbone, counsel for the defense, work feverishly to break down the wall of silence raised by the accused and her husband's proud family; and with the trial only days away they inch toward the dark and appalling heart of the mystery..."
The first half of Defend And Betray seems straightforward and bleak: the murderess, Alexandra Carlyon, has confessed to the crime and is sure to hang. However, her stated reason for the crime is a deception -- at least that's what Oliver Rathbone, Alexandra's lawyer, and William Monk, investigating the murder, believe.
The day-to-day, plot-constructive mundanity of the first half is a masterful build-up; it made the second-half character dynamics, courtroom fireworks and twist-reveals resonate even more with this reader.
Solid, emotional, twist-effective read.
Followed by A Sudden, Fearful Death.