The Cinderella Plan by Abi Silver – a legal thriller of technology and tragedy
A tragic accident cuts into lives, and no more so that in this tense thriller featuring two established characters, lawyers Judith Burton and Constance Lamb. This is a book which looks at the intimate family life of not only the victims, but also those whose work and ambitions are linked to the events of a few dramatic moments. Featuring a complex legal trial in which the accuracy of procedure is brilliantly explored, this book also explores the questions of technological progress and the vulnerability of those who operate it. The reality of the use of driverless cars is discussed as a present fact rather than a future possibility, but the questions that the incident raises dominate this book as people are torn between ambition and confusion over the implications of autonomous vehicles. James Salisbury is in an impossible position; either verdict at his trial will mean disaster for him or his business. As the legacy of the struggle to build a business has left its mark on several people, relationships seem difficult on all sides. As Burton and Lamb try to build a case, nothing is straightforward when motives, technology and legal rules become mixed. This tense novel, peopled with characters with their own backstories, their own motivations, is at once readable and disturbing, as the tension is maintained throughout this book. I was pleased and intrigued to have the opportunity to read and review this well constructed and written novel.
The book opens with the tragedy round which the rest of the novel will work. It is distressing because it is so realistic, and the quick movement back in time to show how that point was reached is something of a relief. James Salisbury is shown as a man desperate in a very controlled way to make his life’s work, the SEDA vehicle, the British produced car designed and manufactured by his company, the main driverless car on the market. The legal implications of introducing the cars is huge, as Parliament needs to be convinced of its safety, insurance companies are unsure and many people need to be convinced. Martine, James’ wife, is a strong force, as she involves herself in the life of the office where Toby is trying to make an impression. Juan, the Mexican technical expert, seems to be involved at many levels, while Peter Mears may have mixed motives for his interest in the company. As Judith and Constance become involved in the case, they have their own expectations and questions to answer, as well as their own history.
This book is a strongly written commentary on the progress towards technological breakthroughs and the human problems it can cause. As the lawyers try to sort out exactly who did what and when, and who knew exactly how the complex systems worked, all the information is hard won. The two lawyers are drawn as real people, with their own backstories and concerns. Ethics, laws and the truth are well explored in this well written thriller. I found it an intense and compelling read, posing large questions of guilt and blame. The legal case is particularly fascinating, and I found the book a worthwhile and timely read, raising questions about the technology which has the potential to change everyone’s life on a daily basis. It also looks at the human cost of innovations and challenges. There are painful moments of truth and real insight in this book, which maintains the tension right until the end. I would recommend this as a well written thriller with real insight into people involved in a nearly impossible situation.