Susie Dent is a writer and broadcaster on language. She recently celebrated 30 years as a co-presenter and the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown, and also appears on the show’s comedy sister 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown. Susie comments regularly on TV and radio on words in the news, and answers notes and queries about words and phrases in various weekly columns. She has written for several news publications, and is the author of multiple books, including her latest, An Emotional Dictionary: Real Words for How You Feel, from Angst to Zwodder, published in 2022. Susie lives in Oxford where she has developed a passion for cycling – Lycra or no, she is never without her little black book for jotting down any new words picked up in the wild. Guilty by Definition is her first novel.

An anonymous letter arrives at the offices of the Clarendon English Dictionary containing a challenge for the team of lexicographers working there. It’s clear that’s it’s not the usual run-of-the-mill, eccentric enquiry. The letter hints at secrets, lies and a year. 2010. For Martha Thornhill, the new senior editor, that year can mean only one thing: the summer her brilliant, beautiful older sister Charlie went missing.

After a decade living abroad, Martha has returned to her father, her family home and the city whose institutions have defined her family, but the ghosts she thought at rest were only waiting for her to return.

More letters arrive, pointing towards a secret in the heart of the dictionary itself. As Martha and her colleagues start pulling apart the clues, the questions become more insistent and troubling. Charlie’s disappearance is one of a series of secret absences going back centuries, and someone wants to keep those secrets buried.

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