Magazine article The Spectator

'Fall of Man in Wilmslow', by David Lagercrantz - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Fall of Man in Wilmslow', by David Lagercrantz - Review

Article excerpt

Fall of Man in Wilmslow David Lagercrantz

Maclehose Press, pp.366, £18.99, ISBN: 9780857059895

As a young student, the atheist Alan Turing -- disorientated with grief over the death of his first love Christopher Morcom -- wrote to Morcom's mother with an atomic theory of how one's spirit might transmigrate. Years later, he brought the modern computer age into being by positing machines imbued with consciousness. You can't help wondering what Turing's shade -- whether ethereal or perhaps digital -- makes of his posthumous fame. Plays; books; postage stamps. Now, following Benedict Cumberbatch's doomy big-screen portrayal of the Bletchley Park codebreaking genius in The Imitation Game , David Lagercrantz fictionalises the murky aftermath of Turing's death. In doing so, he explores questions not only of identity and maths and philosophy, but also of good taste. Turing took his own life, after all: is it quite seemly to turn this into noirish entertainment?

Yet Lagercrantz's careful refusal to let this defiantly odd work fit into any concrete genre somehow smothers qualms. In 1954, in the quiet (and suffocating) Cheshire town of Wilmslow, young detective constable Leonard Corell -- intelligent, unusual sensibilities -- is on the scene at Turing's house, deeply affected by the sight of his corpse. A bite of an apple dipped in home-brewed cyanide was his baroque method of self-dispatch (all true). A year previously, he had undergone nightmarish 'organotherapy' (chemical castration) as his sentence for 'indecent behaviour'. Young Corell, despite his distaste for Turing's homosexuality, feels the need to investigate his death further. In doing so, he crashes up against the snarling, nervy paranoia of the early Cold War years, and also unearths family secrets of his own. …

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