Set pre-covid in 2015, Joy Manville is a New Zealand journalist married to Stephen, an older English husband, and they are enjoying life in Aotearoa. While Stephen teaches film studies at Auckland University, Joy writes a regular column.
But then Joy writes a column about ‘Detachment Theory’, partly based on her husband’s experience of being sent to an English boarding school, and she receives malicious texts that are increasingly hostile – and that causes her to question her husband’s integrity. While Joy knows a little about his early years, Stephen has been very closed off on the subject and is estranged from his only remaining brother.
When the anonymous tweeter claims that Stephen is a cold-blooded killer, she begins investigating, wanting to prove Stephen’s innocence but suddenly questioning many things about the man she loves.
Her investigation starts in New Zealand and goes to Stephen’s childhood home and the Brokebadderly Boarding School in England. The contrast between easy-going, classless New Zealand and the upper-middle-class British is profound, and as Joy investigates, her investigation turns deadly.
Detachment Theory is a well-written drama that had me reading this novel in one sitting; such is the power of the storytelling. It’s a novel that is something very different from anything else I’ve read before, with themes to ponder long after the closing page. The characterisation is extremely well done and the reason this fine novel is so compelling. Detachment Theory is most definitely a recommended read.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan