2022 Reviews · contemporary fiction · thriller

Book Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Title: Anatomy of a Scandal

Author: Sarah Vaughan

Published: October 1st 2018

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 432

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller

RRP: $16.99

Rating: 4 stars

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.


Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan was first published in 2018. This courtroom drama crossed with political thriller has seen a revival of late thanks to the fantastic Netflix series based on this book which aired this month. With issues of consent, passion, infidelity, trust, the truth, protection, loyalty, mateship, politics, authority and status all coming into play, Anatomy of a Scandal is a powerful #MeToo movement piece.

A book that takes the reader right into the heart of the damaged British Government system, Anatomy of a Scandal unveils a compelling story of a husband, a wife, his lover and those in charge of prosecuting this high-powered man for a possible crime. James Whitehouse is a husband, a father and a well-respected political figure. James’ world comes crashing down when is he accused of a shocking crime, the rape of a colleague. James’ wife Sophie adores her husband and is focussed on saving her family from harm. She has remained loyal and supportive to her husband through the hard times, including an incident that happened in their university days. Sophie knows she just has to hang in there and this whole saga will blow over, or will it? Leading this high-profile case is a barrister named Kate Woodcroft. Kate instinctively knows that James is guilty and she is hell-bent on getting him convicted. Questions of consent, permission, miscommunication, lies and concealment all revolve around this complex case of wrongdoing.

I cannot seem to reconcile the fact that I have had Anatomy of a Scandal occupying my TBR shelves for at least four years! The release of the Netflix series starring two of my favourite actors, Michelle Dockery and Rupert Friend, gave me the impetus to finally read Sarah Vaughan’s novel. I respected and appreciated this novel’s direction very much, but I think overall I felt the Netflix series performed better than the book.

Told via three main perspectives with some fantastic characterisation opportunities, Anatomy of a Scandal is a complex but revealing story that raises many important issues related to our current world climate. Drawing directly on the #MeToo movement, along with issues of power, status, morality, protection, alliances, misunderstanding, government, politics, prosecution and the law, this is a powerful account of a man accused. Rotating between the accused man, his wife, the barrister and another key voice, this complicated story emerges. A case where nothing is black or white, the grey areas of Anatomy of Scandal make this tale a truly riveting drama. Utilising the author’s background in politics, reporting, journalism and her life as a student at Oxford makes Anatomy of a Scandal a credible slice of modern fiction. A slightly slow build up works to set the scene, providing key details around the time, place and atmosphere of this crime case, along with a link back to the past which directly impacts this scandal. I didn’t know who I could trust, who was holding the right cards and which character would come out unscathed. I still don’t know the answer to these questions, but the journey to get to the final climax was well executed.

Whether you have watched the popular television series based on this book or not, it is well worth your time to read Anatomy of a Scandal. Sarah Vaughan’s 2018 release is a salient slice of present-day fiction.

Anatomy of Scandal by Sarah Vaughan was published on 1st October 2018 by Simon & Schuster. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Anatomy of a Scandal, Sarah Vaughan here.

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