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Hear No Evil


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Longlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger 2023
Shortlisted for the Bloddy Scotland Debu Prize 2022
Shortlisted for the Historical Writers' Association Debut Crown 2022  *not why I bought it, but thought that it was worth mentioning*


This is a based on a real event in Scottish legal history. 


Jean Campbell was tried for the murder of her three year old - in the book it's her new-born - and this is the fictional account of her life and trial. It's set in Glasgow (she was Glaswegian) and Edinburgh in 1817 and to make matters worse Jean is profoundly deaf. Robert Kinniburgh, a talented teacher from the Deaf & Dumb Institution (in Ediburgh), is brought in to translate for her, in order to find out what happened and to see if she is fit to stand trial. At that time in history there was no such thing as British Sign Language and Jean was wholly illiterate so communication was all but impossible. As is stood, Robert had a great deal of trouble communicating with her, especially initially, but managed well enough to find out what happened and to bring her to trial and translate for the court and for her. 


Jean was poverty stricken and unmarried and already had an older child so really did not have anything at all going for her.


The author has experience of working with the Deaf community, including most recently at Deaf Connections in Glasgow, where she first came across the remarkable story of Jean Campbell and Robert Kinniburgh. Frustratingly for the author, beyond some cursory facts about her life, Jean is essentially absent from the official records, so she decided to invent her story.


This was well researched and very well written. It highlighted the difficulties that deaf people had then and, I would imagine, now, in trying to get through life. At least now there is British Sign Language which means that a deaf child can be taught to read and write and receive something of a further eductation, in the nineteenth century not many people got a basic education and if you were deaf you were considered mentally incompetant. 


I thoroughly enjoyed this and would recommend it.

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