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Sophie Hannah is a British poet and novelist. She wrote 6 psychological crime novels. The Lasting Damage is her 5th crime novel. Lasting Damage is disturbing, intelligent and addictive. Whilst reading it I felt challenged to work out who the murderer was. However because of main character's unstable state of mind you ask yourself whether everything is happening in her mind.
The book starts with Connie (the main character) viewing a virtual tour of a property on one of the property websites. As she watches the virtual tour of the lounge she sees a woman lying in a pool of blood. This all happens around 1 o'clock in the morning whilst her husband, Kit, asleep. She wakes up her Kit and asks him to look at the virtual tour, however when he looks the dead woman is not there and the lounge seems to be just an ordinary room.
It is soon revealed that Connie was looking at the house in 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge, for a reason and that she does not trust her husband who Connie thinks that is somehow connected with that particular property.
Connie's state of mind is quite erratic. Her family suffocates her and she spends a lot of time with them. She hates the fact that she lives very close to her family and that all her life evolves in the same village where nothing much happens.
On the other hand the story speaks about the police force in Spilling, the place where Connie and her family lives. The author presents the lives of the police officers and the romantics between them.
My favourite part of the book was when the author exposed more information about Kit's family and his childhood. I would have liked for the author to go further and describe Kit's earlier childhood and see if there were any connections between Kit's obsession with things and his early years. Before each chapter the author showed bits of paper from a police file which helps the reader to discover more about the story and slowly build the puzzle.
If you like to be on edge and play the armchair detective you will definitely like this book. I certainly loved it and I would very much like to read another one of Sophie Hanna's books.
Sophie Hannah is a published poet and an established crime fiction author. 'Lasting Damage' is her sixth psychological crime thriller and is similar in style and approach to her previous offerings.
== Now you see it... ==
At 1.15am, after waiting for her husband to fall asleep, Connie Bowskill begins to watch a virtual tour of a house for sale in Cambridge. She's watching the tour to set her mind at rest - but when the camera reveals a dead body in the living room, she is thrown into panic. Waking her husband, Kit, she insists that he watches the virtual tour, but when he views the living room there is nothing to be seen but a spotless beige carpet...
This is the reason I read Sophie Hannah's books: I find the premises really strange and immediately want answers to about a million questions. Why was Connie looking at this house in the first place? Did she imagine the body? If not, who is it, what happened and who on earth would upload the image to a virtual tour on a property selling website? If she did imagine it - why? And if Connie isn't mad, can her husband be trusted?
In case this wasn't gripping enough, the actual story opens with a frightening scene involving Kit and Connie set a week after the events of the first chapter. I found that while I was reading the story and my suspicions were shifting it was helpful to reread this introductory snippet from the story's denouement.
== ...now you don't. ==
As the story develops, Hannah gradually draws in a range of supporting characters and develops a tale about trust and obsession. Personally I found the events convoluted but plausible - not likely, but possible.
This story is structured in the same way as Hannah's previous crime novels. Chapters alternate between the first person viewpoint of a female protagonist and a third person viewpoint from Spilling's police force. Inbetween some of the chapters are documents relevant to the case, though in this instance it is initially impossible to understand how they could be relevant. I like this approach as it allows Hannah to create a range of cliffhangers and to carefully control the flow of information. It can mean that the beginnings of her books feel a little disjointed as three different perspectives are introduced relatively quickly, but once all three have begun they work together well.
This is not a straightforward police procedural as there is rather more focus on the detectives' interaction and personal lives than one might expect, and the case is solved through lots of discussion and intuition and not much evidence, as the evidence itself is so minimal and difficult to interpret. I find this style appealing, if a little too reliant at times on Simon Waterhouse's ability to make connections that nobody else can, but if you prefer more evidence-based crime solving then you'll need to look elsewhere. There's not a fingerprint to be seen here.
== A secret series ==
Although there is nothing on the cover or in the blurb to indicate that this story forms part of a series, this is actually Hannah's sixth book following the investigations of Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse. I still find this lack of publicity rather odd, but feel that newcomers should find that the portion of the book which follows the investigations (and, more commonly, the relationships of the police officers) is easy enough to follow. Anything which needs recapping is briskly recapped at an appropriate point, which meant that as someone who has read all the previous books, I did not feel that I was being bored by being forced to revisit old information.
Interestingly, Hannah brings back a character from her first book 'Little Face' here and there is a suggestion that she may yet recur in the next book. I think this is a nice nod to fans of the series without being intrusive or confusing to newcomers.
The relationship between Charlie and Simon continues to be bizarre and I, for one, wouldn't object to the whole idea being dropped. Since the changes brought about by 'The Point of Rescue' (the third book in the series) I have found their relationship increasingly odd and, personally, I would rather focus on the policing. However, for fans of previous books and this relationship in particular there is plenty here to keep your interest.
== How not to run a police department ==
Simon's preferred style of investigation is to ignore his superiors and chase seemingly insignificant details which ultimately allow the complexities of the entire case to be revealed to him. While this works for him (to the great annoyance of his boss, Giles Proust) it is obviously not the preferred procedure as dociumented in the Detectives Training Manual and I am left wondering quite how he has managed to keep his job. It is also, if one is in realistic mode, a little odd that, as Simon mournfully observes at one point, all his cases seem to involve extremely unusual and unconventional motives. If you're willing to set these minor quibbles to one side, you might just enjoy this.
The denouement is very heavy on discussion. Simon explains his astonishing theories to his colleagues in a convenient traffic jam while Connie receives detailed explanations from another source. I like endings where everything is neatly wrapped up so this style suits me, but some readers are likely to find the ending too heavy on conversation. Hannah's books aren't thrillers where the reader is given sufficient clues to catch the killer before the end; instead, the fun is in piecing the story together retrospectively, and it does all fit together well.
== Conclusions ==
* If you have liked Sophie Hannah's previous novels then it's likely you will enjoy this as there are plenty of similarities in style and structure.
* If you've never read her books before, there's no need to start at the beginning (although I do recommend 'Little Face') as, although this is part of a series of crime novels, there is sufficient information to help you understand the relationships between the detectives.
* Read if: you enjoy crime where motive is crucial and evidence is minimal; you don't mind talky denouements where all is neatly wrapped up; you like reading about people's relationships.
* Avoid if: you like to be able to solve the crime as you read; you enjoy plots driven by forensic or other, tangible, evidence; you like action packed endings with some things left unsaid or unresolved.