Thursday 26 April 2018

Review: Negligent Behaviour by Josepha Madigan

Self published, RRP €8.60

Angela M Cornyn

'Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!'

Josepha Madigan has a penchant for pithy quotes so it seems a fitting tribute to her debut novel to begin with the above quote from Walter Scott. The aptly titled Negligent Behaviour has as its heroine sassy solicitor Helene McBain, who is 35, single and scarred from a past relationship: these days she prefers to settle for sex only "on a not infrequent basis".

Happily childless, she is a partner with Peterson & Co, a high-profile Dublin law firm, which is a long way from her humble beginnings as the only child of Irish shopkeeper parents in Devon.

Helene's contentment is, however, suddenly shattered with the arrival of a trio of men into her life: Barnaby Walsh, an accountant from the Law Society who is auditing the firm's books; Dan Goodings, an IT businessman who jogs marathons for charities, likes to cook and is at first a client in a divorce case but who, post-divorce, Helene admits is "beginning to grow on me"; and Murdoch Pierce, a suave, married senior counsel. Helene launches into steamy sex sessions with two of the three men.

Helene's indiscretions cause her to become deeply embroiled in the "shambolic saga" of the machinations of Andrew Peterson, the amoral and manipulative managing partner of Peterson & Co.

The story that unravels is set during the last gasps of "Celtic Tiger" Ireland. It is often said that fact is stranger than fiction. Negligent Behaviour, while ostensibly a work of fiction, is fuelled by the recent scandals which laid bare the pervasive corruption and cronyism in the higher echelons of Irish society.

The novel presents a fusion of professional and personal misconduct, namely, fraud and embezzlement on a mega scale, political corruption and blackmail together with an unexpected pregnancy with paternity questions attached. There is also the discovery of a male escort agency for gays, and the standard fare for every chick-lit novel -- love affairs that lead to marital breakdown. This avalanche of illicit activities results in an abundance of introspection on love and life and the inevitable moral dilemmas.

While one can only commend the author for having the courage to embark on the hard road of self-publishing, the novel suffers from the perils that stem from that choice. Wobbly syntax and a tension in the writing between the demands of the chick-lit genre and the obvious legal expertise of the author result, at times, in the two excesses of legalistic minutiae mixed with gratuitous sexual references.

The above foibles aside, Negligent Behaviour has a well-structured plot about a fraudster, fugitive solicitor involved in property scams.

An excellent tale based on a timely topic.

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