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Summary

Now a major tv series starring Monica Dolan (as 'Canoe Widow' Anne Darwin) and Eddie Marsan.

How did the most ordinary of couples pull off one of the most outrageous frauds of modern times? And why did they carry on with the lie for so long?

Drowning in debt and facing almost certain bankruptcy, John Darwin did the unthinkable - he paddled out to sea in his red canoe and disappeared. After a massive search and rescue operation failed to find his body, he was assumed dead, lost in the bleak North Sea. 

But everything was far from what it seemed.

Nearly six years later, after John miraculously returned from the dead with a strange tale of 'amnesia' and sporting a suspicious golden tan, the police and the Press were desperate to discover the truth behind his remarkable resurrection. 

Journalist David Leigh was despatched to Panama, where he tracked down John's wife, Anne Darwin, who had started a secretive new life with the insurance money claimed from her husband's 'death'. But what lay behind her decision to move to Central America, thousands of miles away from her family and friends? The truth would gradually unravel during an astonishing week of jaw-dropping revelations. 

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is the definitive behind-the-scenes account of this true story of audacious deception and coercion, offering an unprecedented insight into a mind-boggling story that gripped the nation - and into the inscrutable minds of 'Canoe Man' John and Anne Darwin, his long-suffering partner in crime.

Perfect for fans of ITV true crime dramas such as Quiz, Des, Manhunt and The Pembrokeshire Murders.

©2022 David Leigh and Anthony Hutchison (P)2022 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

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Very disappointed

Great story, and being told from the reporter’s point of view should have made it really interesting. And would have, if the actual writing had been better. A lot better.

The narration is equally poor, being a little nasal, and very dull.

I’ve had to abandon it after only about a quarter, because life is too short to read/listen to bad books.

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Solid account

This is a thorough and well-researched book which provides a much more nuanced account than the rather cartoonish TV series. My main criticism is that it could have been trimmed by about 10 per cent as it gets repetitive towards the end. Also the author needlessly veers into moralising when the facts speak for themselves.

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brilliant audible book

thoroughly enjoyed the book extremely well written and narrated keeping my attention at all times.

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Interesting and compelling

Good narration, interesting and compelling story.
Neither the Darwins nor journalists come out of this well.

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Thoroughly enjoyed!

Easy to understand the logistics of fraud and mastermind behaviour to which I'd usually not have a clue! The accent was also bang on 👌🏻

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  • JJ
  • 27-06-22

Slightly conflicted.

This story was familiar to me, though the book goes into greater depth and covered details I’d never heard before. I had some difficulty initially reconciling myself to the actions of the author, a reporter working on behalf of a tabloid newspaper who appears to position himself awkwardly between protecting Anne and protecting his scoop, though is honest enough to admit to the latter. As a reader it’s hard to champion either though.

That said, the British humour is reliably dry and although the appearances are welcome it is not overdone, this could have devolved into farce but the seriousness of the situation was always in view, a fact that is aided by excellent narration.

A slightly tighter edit might have helped as the story seemed to lag at times, and there were repetitions, but on the whole I’d recommend it, especially if the story is new to you!