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Warning: this book is part of a series (of sorts). When I first read this book, I was really confused, despite enjoying it immensely, because I felt sure I recognised the characters, and yet I had no recollection of the intriguing plot. Eventually, I realised that this was the third of Hannah's books involving certain police officers. Although the front page notes that this is by the "bestselling author of 'Little Face'", it is marketed as simply a crime mystery and it is not really made clear that some characters have also starred in her previous two novels in this genre. Now, this isn't to say that you can't read this as a standalone novel (you can) but just a note really to anyone who is likely to get confused like I did! The main plot is set up by the blurb, but there is no mention of any of the police characters, so the link between the three books is really hidden, which I think is bizarre, frankly. Anyway. The story begins dramatically and never loses pace, despite spending the early chapters establishing new and old characters. Sally, a first person narrator, is just finishing an argument with her childminder, Pam, who has screamed at her in front of a crowd of people. Shortly after this, as her mind is busily moving through her tightly scheduled day, Sally accidentally walks in front of a bus - or was she pushed? Hannah leaves it ambiguous, encouraging us to doubt Sally's opinions. Is she simply too tired to think straight? After grabbing the kids from nursery there is a struggle to get them into bed and the reader is introduced to Sally's husband Nick: good-humoured but clearly not as efficient as Sally - or as stressed. After calling her good friend Esther to discuss the day's traumas, Sally sees something impossible on the news. A woman and child are dead, apparently both killed by the mother in their own house. The grieving father is someone Sally knows intimately, but the man on the TV screen isn't him... Put this way, the style sounds blunt, but this all unfolds in a casual yet suitably quick manner in the first chapter. The writing is often humorous as Sally describes her reactions to her husband and children, who perplex her by insisting that they "don't want *shepherd's* pie for dinner, they want shepherd's *pie*". The situations described are at once realistic, vivid and almost poetic - probably due to Hannah's background as a poet, which is also not mentioned anywhere on the novel. The chaotic family scene is perfectly captured, as is Sally's slightly negative (she would say realistic) attitude towards her life. The next chapter moves into third person narration to introduce the police officers investigating the homicide/suicide, although the initial focus is more on establishing their relationships with each other than the background to the case. DC Simon Waterhouse and DS Charlie Zailer have always had a complicated relationship, although recent events have made it worse (and this is where a knowledge of the events in Hannah's previous novel, 'hurting distance', would be useful but not essential). All the characters are well established and have distinct personalities. The tension in Waterhouse and Zailer's relationship is palpable, but their actual feelings for each other do come across as rather too extreme considering the limited contact they have. The case gradually comes into focus, and a key document is cited as evidence: it seems the murdered woman kept a diary - or did she? Waterhouse immediately feels that the bitter outpourings don't fit with what he has learned about the deceased, but his superior refuses to listen. Waterhouse is adamant that something isn't right, and besides, who keeps their personal diary on a computer? As is typical of Hannah's style, the diary is reproduced for the reader and interspersed with the rest of the story. The writer clearly loathes her life, although she is witty about it. Interestingly, her feelings are sometimes suggestive of Sally's own, which will be significant later on. As the plot thickens, the dates on the diary entries gradually move nearer to the fateful day when its writer lost her life... This is a truly gripping psychological thriller which remains true to life but never bores by slipping into the completely prosaic. The reactions of the characters are credible but interesting; the plot is stunningly strange but believable; details that seem trivial become part of the overall drama. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime fiction that focuses on motives as much as evidence and character as much as plot. I'm already anticipating reading the next one in this secret series!
When you read a good thriller you get caught up in a rollercoaster of emotions, the pages seem to turn themselves as you get drawn into the plot, and you feel the author toying with you whilst enjoying the twists and turns of the plot in equal measure. This book succeeds in this genre in some ways, but for me, disappointed in others. Firstly the premise of the plot is a good one which lends itself to much speculation and intrigue. The central character Sally is a working mum who makes the most of a cancelled business trip to escape reality for a while - she checks herself into a hotel for a week to escape her day to day life. Whilst there she meets a Mark Bretherick with whom she has a bit of a fling, he too is apparently a married man with a wife and a child. A year later she is shocked to see Mark Bretherick on the news as his wife and child have been murdered - only problem is the Mark Bretherick on the news may live in the same place as the Mark she met, have a murdered wife of the same name but his face is totally different. Her dilemna becomes what to do. The author does manage to explore the themes of motherhood and the frustrations along with the joy that it brings and fill the reader with disquiet and wondering. The plot does keep you interested at points, and there are a few twists and turns, however I had a real problem with the secondary characters of the book. This is the third in a series from Sophie Hannah, "Little Face" and "Hurting Distance" being the first two books. I have to say that I haven't read the two books, but it appears that they got very good reviews and featured the same two detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse. Perhaps had I read the first two books I would have found these two characters more convincing. As it was I had real trouble, despite my best efforts, actually remembering who they were at various points of the book, less still caring about them and the feeble attempt at a love interest between them. I also struggled to believe in Geraldine, the murdered wife, and his daughter Lucy. As for the shadowy police chief "The Snowman", I really didn't work out who he was. Some of the devices used in the plot such as a discovered written diary on a computer, and a visit to a crime expert just didn't ring true. Neither did some of the dialogue convince, especially where expletives had been inserted to add a touch of realism in a willy-nilly manner - or so it seemed to me. I did want to know what happened, I just didn't necessarily enjoy the process of finding out, at points it all just seemed a little drawn out for no reason other than filling the pages. I kept thinking that I should relate to the main character as I know the daily grind that motherhood brings too well, but I just couldn't and didn't. Her husband, Nick, was probably the most two dimensional of all. When the end of this book came I was suprised in a mild yet disbelieving way, but not over sorry I had finished it and the characters hadn't been rendered real or interesting enough for me to care about them. I would be interested to see the first book in this series to see whether it made me any more bothered by the characters, however you would think that in 457 pages that the author would be able to weave magic and make the characters live more than they do here. Sure there were a couple of surprises along the way but the biggest one of all to me was fatally flawed as not being at all likely to have happened that way. Overall this book left me with mixed feelings - it definitely isn't a keeper for me and not anything I would read again, but at £5.49 on amazon you may enjoy it, particulary if you liked the other two books. A non-memorable and a little disappointing read for me.
If you have read my earlier reviews, you will have noticed I am a fan of Sophie Hannah and have enjoyed her first two novels, as I love a good thriller! This, the third is just as good, and I know I have found a new author to enjoy. Sally Thorning is a hard-working mother of two young children. Her husband often seems oblivious to the chaos around him, and Sally often feels she has three children not two! After a particularly stressful day - someone tries to push her under a bus! - Sally is watching the news about the tragic death of a woman and her daughter. When the details are relayed on screen, Sally realises she knows of this family, in particular the father, Mark Bretherick. However, when Mark Bretherick appears on screen, Sally is shocked and surprised to see this is not the Mark Bretherick she knows, this is a completely different man altogether! Sally had met the man she knew as Mark Bretherick, when on a short holiday by herself. A work trip she had been looking forward to had been cancelled suddenly, and Sally, desperate for a break from her stressful life had gone away alone for a few days, whilst her husband believed she was on her work trip. This deception is something that is going to come back and haunt Sally. A further shock comes when a picture of Geraldine, Mark's dead wife is shown on the screen, and Sally realises she looks exactly like her. Sally is not sure how to act, and after giving it some thought, she sends an anonymous letter to the police, asking them to investigate the identity of the man known as 'Mark Bretherick'. Sally meanwhile becomes increasingly anxious and decides to pay Mark a vist... Most of the book is written in the first person narrative, and Sally, seems unaware of any dangers, or the situation she is being drawn deeper into. I found this really frustrating about her character. A diary is found which is believed to have been written by Geraldine Bretherick and highlights her hatred of motherhood, and cruelty she inflicts on their child, which she rationalises in the pages she writes, and does not fit in with everyone's opinion of the person she was. Some of the chapters in this book are pages from the diary, which adds to the deepening mystery of what exactly has happened. Did Geraldine really write this diary? Once again Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, the police detectives who feature in Sopie Hannah's two earlier novels, are the detectives on the case. There is again some sub-storyline about their relationship, which does not detract from the compelling storyline. I have warmed to these two characters from reading the other novels, and have enjoyed the fact they appear in each book. There are also some amusing insights into the realtionships between the police and the Criminal Psychologists. The characters of Sally and her husband, I found quite irritating at times but oddly this did not stop my enjoyment of the book, which I would have thought would happen. Sally's husband is just too laid back, and Sally's deception did not endear her to me in anyway, until further into the book. This is a thriller which builds slowly from the first page, and draws you into the increasingly complex case. I did think half-way through that I had sussed the outcome, but I was wrong on all-accounts! I read this book in two days, and can't wait to read her new one! Published by Hodder paperbacks 2008 and available on Amazon, £5.49 new and from £0.01 used.
This book is definitely a crime thriller/horror which is a little different from my usual reads. I often opt for Jodi Picoult books, which whilst having a crime in them are all about the characters and about human relationships. Aside from Jodi Picoult I mainly enjoy any other books that are all about the characters, generally anything that sounds like it is going to have me shedding buckets of tears is going to be a winner with me. Every so often though a thriller catches my attention and I end up reading it, but rarely do they fulfill the excitement that I find the blurb has promised me. Here Sally, working mum of two, has been away for a week, supposedly on a business trip, leaving her husband to look after the children while she indulges in doing whatever she wants as her reward for normally putting everyone but herself first. Within this week, one of the thing she ends up wanting, is another man, who introduces himself to her as Mark Bretherick, husband of Geraldine and father of Lucy. The two have a week long affair and the life goes back to normal for Sally, with no one any the wiser of her secret week away. Until one day, on the news Mark Bretherick's wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy are reported to have been murdered, and widower Mark Bretherick himself is on the news, only it isn't the same man she knows as Mark Bretherick, it's someone else claiming to be. Could Sally now be in danger, being the only person who knows that all is not what it seems? And what is more important, escaping what could be a murderer who knows you might know too much, or keeping your past affair a secret and keeping your family intact? This book, I don't think has any deeper meaning or message about it, it's a pure crime thriller. All it is about is keeping the reader guessing, wanting to know more, wanting to figure it all out and at the same time not wanting to realize until the very last page for fear of ruining it for themselves. The book does a good job at this. By page 56 I thought "ah this is what's happened!!!" quickly followed by "it best not be because I've completely ruined it now if it is". Luckily, despite many "oh I've figured it all out too soon" moments, I never did, there were times when I'd figure out a certain element before it was revealed but not the entire plot.. What I didn't like, before even starting the book, was that the front cover itself reveals there is a "twist". I always find that the best twists are ones you don't even know are coming. For example, films that are noted down as "the best twist" for me aren't, although realistically they probably do have the best twist, the ones I've enjoyed most are ones that I weren't aware even had one, so didn't spend my time looking for one. I was annoyed that before even starting the book you are forced into knowing this, although given the nature of the book, I think I was going to be second guessing the whole way through despite this. What it did do though, is set my expectations high for this "twist", and while it was good; it made sense it wasn't just there for a twists sake, and it wasn't obvious, it also wasn't one of those twists that blow you away with how outstanding they are. It was just a bit like okay, yeah that makes sense, I didn't figure it out, good, but not like stunning and powerful, I wasn't in the end, that excited by it but every moment leading up to it, before knowing the truth was exciting, the big reveal just didn't pay off as well as I had hoped. The book is like any mystery/thriller type book that I have read, it wasn't something that was particularly different from the other one's I've read in that it followed the same formula, kept us guessing, had twists and turns throughout, revealed tid bits of information at a time, clues to the reader but without being obvious but enough for at the end us to look back and think "ahh". It worked well and was really good, and whilst it was in the same vain as a lot of other crime thrillers, it was a lot better than others I have read. Sometimes they can tend to get a bit silly just for the sake of trying to build suspense or tension, but this remained believable whilst still creating build up and excitement. The book wasn't without flaws but had good points that almost made up for it. The tension, excitement and pacing of the book was brilliant but there with it's devotion to making sure this was spot on, it felt that the characters weren't as well developed as in some books. Whilst this is understandable in some ways, the book has chosen to concentrate more so on the plot and mystery than on the characters themselves, it always makes me care slightly less and be less involved in the book. The main characters were by no means one dimensional, they were well developed, just not to the point of truly feeling for them. Because they were still well rounded it didn't detract from the story by me thinking they were flat so this in itself wasn't even a problem. However, there were a lot of what I felt were surplus characters. In fact it was everyone related to the police side of the story. They were all more or less non distinguishable from each other bar a few. They tried to give each a few defining features but they were so interchangeable that it didn't work. It's hard to make sense without contradicting myself, but by giving each character a little trait or something that got hammered home every time they appeared on the page, it didn't make that person a "character" as such. I could have read it as "some police officer said this, another said that back, one of them did this", I didn't care who was doing or saying what because they weren't actual people in my mind like some characters can be. Because of this, any little side story that was supposed to give them depth, detracted from the story, was boring, never went anywhere and made me a little irritated that I was having to read boring irrelevant things about boring irrelevant characters. The little boring things about their little boring lives were no doubt in there to try to make them developed characters but it didn't serve that purpose, they were still flat characters, but now with some boring side story force fed down your face everytime they appearead. It just didn't work. Particularly annoying was one characters "not after what happened last year" that they mentioned every single time they were on the page, that was supposed to add more mystery to a book that didn't need a side mystery plot, and was irritating, went no where and almost had me screaming by the eightieth time that I read it - I don't care what happened to you last year it's not interesting it's nothing to do with the plot!!!! Okay so there were clearly things that I didn't love but the plot and the pacing and the mood the book set was enough for me to still love it despite these things. The book pretty much followed a theme of doing a chapter following what was going on with Sally, a chapter which was excerpts of Geraldine's diary, and then a chapter of the police. I'm not entirely sure how well this worked. I found myself a little irritate by the police chapters and wanting to get back to the real story, perhaps it would have been better all integrated together for me personally. Tell me what the book is like (which usually doesn't equate to what it is about, obviously) The main emotions as I've mentioned that this book provoked were excitement, suspense and intrigue. It wasn't an emotionally touching book, it won't make you laugh, cry, or reconsider your life views and values, but it's sure to excite you and thrill you throughout, there were no lapses in the story. From the first chapter I was excited to read the rest of the book. The one downside is as I got towards the last half of the book, I was getting barely any sleep as I simply couldn't bear to break off from the story at any point. Yes there are chapters, but it flows so well and keeps moving constantly so there was never I point I felt like I wanted to stop, I constantly needed to know what was going to happen next as the end of each chapter was almost like a cliffhanger. This book was definitely interesting throughout and whilst I felt I didn't like the characters in the police section so much which made those my least favourite, there wasn't really any large parts that were boring. As I mentioned there were odd sentences that irritated me as they seemed irrelevant and yes a little boring but it wasn't like it was paragraphs and paragraphs, or chapters, it was just tiny bits of irrelevant writing that could have been cut out but even with them the book was good enough for it not to suffer too greatly. It was a really fun and entertaining read. It was good enough for me to thoroughly enjoy it but not good enough for Sophie Hannah to become an instant favorite author of mine. If I saw any of her books on sale and there wasn't anything better to choose from I would buy her other books and I think I'd enjoy reading them but it wasn't enough to have me running to the nearest book shop stocking up on all her past titles or waiting for her next book to come out. It was great, I did love the book, but it wasn't quite on my favorite list. That said, I feel then like I'm not emphasizing how much I loved this book, I really did, it was the most exciting book I've read in a long time. I don't think this book is likely to offend anyone unless they have lost someone close to them to murder or suicide or anything like that in which case I'd perhaps give it a miss. Whilst it is thrilling, I didn't find it in anyway scary so I would say it is suitable for any adults. It definitely isn't chick lit, and would be suitable for both sexes although it does have a female voice to it. This was a thrilling read and I literally couldn't put it down, I am glad however that I've finished it as now I can finally spend my nights sleeping instead of reading!