John Murray imprint Two Roads has won a three-way auction for the the debut historical crime novel by Sarah Smith, winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award 2019.
Publisher Lisa Highton acquired UK rights to Hear No Evil from Jenny Hewson at Lutyens & Rubinstein. Two Roads will publish in hardback, e-book and audio in February 2022.
Set in Scotland and inspired by the real-life, landmark case of the first deaf person to be tried in a Scottish court, Hear No Evil is billed as “a thrilling and richly atmospheric exploration of 19th-century Edinburgh and Glasgow at a time when progress was only on the horizon”.
The synopsis reads: “Jean Campbell – a young deaf woman -- is witnessed throwing a child into the River Clyde. No evidence is yielded from the river. Unable to communicate with their silent prisoner, the authorities move Jean to the decaying Edinburgh Tolbooth in order to prise the story from her. The High Court calls in Robert Kinniburgh, a talented teacher from the Deaf & Dumb Institution, in the hope that he will interpret for them and determine if Jean is fit for trial. If found guilty she faces one of two fates: death by hanging or incarceration in an insane asylum. As Robert gains her trust, Jean confides in him and Robert begins to uncover the truth, moving uneasily from interpreter to investigator, determined to clear her name before it is too late.”
Smith is a writer from Glasgow who has worked as a creative writing tutor, family history researcher and project worker with a number of charities including Deaf Connections where she first came across the story that would go on to inspire Hear No Evil. In 2019, she was awarded a New Writers Award for Fiction from the Scottish Book Trust.
She said: “The moment I came across a newspaper account of the first deaf person to be tried in a Scottish court, I was determined to bring it to a wider audience. This was despite – or perhaps because of – the dearth of information about Jean Campbell’s life and the crime she was accused of. I’m absolutely delighted that Hear No Evil has been so enthusiastically embraced by Two Roads and I feel lucky to have found such supportive champions in Lisa and her team.”
Highton said: “I was immediately held by this compelling story of a woman trapped in an impossible situation, literally without voice. In many ways it reminded me of the historical narratives of Kate Summerscale and Kate Colquhoun. Jean Campbell is her own woman who refuses to be defined by her deafness and Sarah has poured an extraordinary story into the gaps left by the records of the time.”
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