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A Very English Scandal is a true crime non-fiction novel[2][3] by John Preston. It was first published on 5 May 2016 by Viking Press[1] and by Other Press [4] in the United States. The novel details the 1970s Thorpe affair in Britain, in which former Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, was tried and acquitted of conspiring to murder his alleged former lover, Norman Scott.[5]

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
Cover of A Very English Scandal by John Preston.jpg
The front cover of the first edition (hardcover)
AuthorJohn Preston
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
5 May 2016
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback), e-book, audiobook[1]
ISBN978-0-241-21572-2 (Hardcover)



In 1979, former Member of Parliament, Jeremy Thorpe, stood trial over accusations that he hired a hitman to kill his alleged ex-lover, Norman Scott. A Very English Scandal chronicles Thorpe's early, secretive love life, at a time when sexual activity between men was illegal, and his subsequent public exposure. The novel also details Thorpe's trial and eventual acquittal.[6]


Nicholas Shakespeare, writing in The Telegraph, gave the novel five stars out of five, noting that Preston "tells this complicated story of cack-handed assassins, buffoonish policemen, dodgy Home Secretaries and sozzled judges simply and with relish."[7] The Guardian's Chris Mullin described the novel as "a real page-turner", adding that it is "probably the most forensic, elegantly written and compelling account of one of the 20th century’s great political scandals".[5]

The New York Times' Marilyn Stasio agreed that "Preston has written this page-turner like a political thriller", but wrote that "no matter how hard he tries...his central character comes off as selfish, arrogant and manipulative".[2] Meanwhile, The Spectator's Andrew Lycett noted that "For all his pleasing authorial touches, Preston adds little to a well-bruited story."[8]


The BBC announced a three-part television miniseries based on the book in May 2017. It was shown in the UK on BBC One in May and June 2018. The series was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, with Hugh Grant starring as Thorpe.[9]


  1. ^ a b "A Very English Scandal (official publisher's page)". Penguin Books. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Stasio, Marilyn (25 October 2016). "New True-Crime Books for Fall". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Aaronovitch, David (30 April 2016). "Books: A Very English Scandal by John Preston". The Times.
  4. ^ "A Very English Scandal (official publisher's page)". Other Press. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b Mullin, Chris (9 May 2016). "A Very English Scandal review – Jeremy Thorpe's fall continues to fascinate". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot in the Houses of Parliament". Publishers Weekly. 11 July 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  7. ^ Shakespeare, Nicholas (30 April 2016). "How a murder plot was hatched in the House of Commons". The Telegraph.
  8. ^ Lycett, Andrew (14 May 2016). "Jeremy Thorpe gets off Scott-free". The Spectator.
  9. ^ Mitchell, Robert (22 May 2017). "Hugh Grant Returns to British TV for First Time in Nearly 25 Years". Variety.