Book Review: The Professor of Truth by James Robertson


Rating: 4.5 / 5

Alan Tealing is an English literature professor who has not moved on from the deaths of his wife and daughter from the fictionalized version of bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie more than two decades ago.  At first, his wife’s family and his own parents and sister were grief stricken and in mourning.  As a suspect was charged, found guilty, and eventually died, however, his relatives, as well as other victims’ families, found closure and moved on.  Khalil Khazar was the suspect and the prosecution’s case rested mostly on the testimony of Khazar’s cab driver the day of the tragic incident, Martin Parroulet.  Tealing does not believe Parroulet’s testimony, and concludes that Khazar could not have been the mastermind behind the bombing.  His singular goal and driving passion to find the truth has completely alienated him from his friends, family, and basically society.

One winter morning, a retired CIA operative named Nilsen arrives at his door, armed with information about the investigation.  Nilsen claims that he has cancer and before he dies, he wants to set the record straight on the bombing.  He has reached out to Tealing because Tealing had publicly criticized Parroulet’s testimony, and was an outspoken dissenter in Khazar’s conviction.  While Nilsen will not go so far as to tell Tealing who the CIA think was really behind the bombing, before he leaves, he gives Tealing the address of Parroulet, knowing that Tealing will not be able to resist flying to Australia to talk to Parroulet.

Although The Professor of Truth moves at a quick pace, it is surprisingly character driven.  Tealing has been consumed not only with his grief over the unexpected loss of his wife and daughter, but with finding the truth.  His inability to gain closure from the conclusion of the investigation or the conclusion of the trial has hindered his ability to reconnect with the world. The Professor of Truth is a very thought-provoking read, bringing to light the nuances found in the nature of truth, and the perception of truth.  Written into the despair of Tealing over finding the truth, and the despair of other victims’ families on trying to find closure is a look into the various ways people deal with grief.  It is clear Tealing has not moved on, nor is there any indication that he wants to close the book on this chapter in his life.  He wants to find the truth, and at times, it seemed like he wanted to know what happened for the truth of the events, and not because it would give him closure.

The Professor of Truth is a novel with depth, emotion, and a poignant lesson in the power and necessity of empathy.  Highly recommend.


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