The Professor of Truth, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


The Professor of Truth is James Robertson's acclaimed novel about grief, truth and justice.

Twenty-one years after his wife and daughter were murdered in the bombing of a plane over Scotland, Alan Tealing, a university lecturer, still doubts the official version of events surrounding that terrible night.

Obsessed by the details of what he has come to call The Case, he is sure that the man convicted of the atrocity was not responsible, and that he himself has thus been deprived not only of justice but also of any chance of escape from his enduring grief.

When a terminally ill American intelligence officer arrives on his doorstep with information about a key witness in the trial, Alan decides to act.

Will this lead to the truth for which he has waited so long? "Superb. A mystery thriller, a haunting evocation of grief". (Daily Mail). "A great storyteller. It is a tense and gripping read, beautifully imagined". (The Times). "Powered by action and mystery, and profoundly invested in the lives of its characters". (Scotsman). James Robertson is the author of four previous novels, The Fanatic, Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack and And the Land Lay Still. The Testament of Gideon Mack was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, picked by Richard and Judy's Book Club, and shortlisted for the Saltire Book of the Year award. And the Land Lay Still was the winner of the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award 2010.




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When I first heard about this book I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy it. A novel based so closely upon the Lockerbie bombing and the protracted aftermath sounded rather too harrowing. It is, however, written by James Robertson, author of 'And The Land Lay Bare' (perhaps the definitive novel of Scotland in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries) and the strangely compelling 'Testament of Gideon Mack', so there was never any question about whether I would read it.I am glad I did. The novel is a first person narrative from Dr Alan Tealing, an academic based at an unspecified Scottish university (though I am pretty sure it is meant to be Stirling) whose American wife and young daughter were among the victims of a terrorist atrocity that led to a passenger jet exploding over a town in southern Scotland twenty one years ago. Hence the inescapable associations with Lockerbie. As the novel opens the news of the death in prison of the man convicted of causing the explosion has just been announced. Tealing is devastated. Alone among all the bereaved, he has always been convinced that the conviction, secured largely upon the unsupported testimony of a minicab driver, was unsafe, and, to the consternation of the authorities, he had campaigned publicly for a retrial.Shortly after the announcement is made Tealing is visited by a mysterious American called Niven, who claims to have been part of the secret service team that investigated the cause of the explosion. Niven explains that he is terminally ill and asks for a last interview with Tealing to try to discover why he has remained so adamant in his belief in the prisoner's innocence. Afterwards, as he prepares to leave, Niven passes Tealing a piece of paper with the new name and address of the witness whose evidence proved so pivotal in the trial. The précis above may make the novel sound overpoweringly sombre. Certainly there are very few laughs, but the plot fairly fizzes along. Tealing is an overwhelmingly plausible character and the evident depth of Robertson's own research about Lockerbie is replicated in his character's monomania. This could so easily have fallen into tasteless recapitulation of all the emotive responses to the atrocity, but Robertson pulls it off masterfully.And … there's a cat in it too!