The one thing that can’t be disputed about Sophie Hannah’s books is that they are all a unique reading experience; The Narrow Bed does not break this tradition. So much so that it is often hard to articulate exactly what the book is about but I’ll give it my best shot!
Two pairs of best friends have been killed and the Culver Valley are investigating alongside other police forces to identify the perpetrator. So far so simple, the police have helpfully provided the press with a catchy name to keep the crimes in the news and to gain intelligence from the public ‘Billy Dead Mates’ makes his way into everyone’s homes especially when ardent feminist Sondra Halliday choses this subject to rail against misogyny, despite one of the victims being male. Sophie Hannah is a genius at picking out the nonsense that seems to prevail and takes it one infinitesimal step further to allow us to laugh at ourselves and each other with the absurd truth of on-line news forums for one.
This book, like a few of the others in this series, has a strong literary leaning most obviously with the little white books delivered to each victim a few weeks before they are killed. These books all contain a single line of poetry but no-one can fit the puzzle together and work out what it means. Well of course readers of this series know that Simon Waterhouse, the genius detective will, at some point, but will he be quick enough to prevent any further murders? The biggest mystery of all as usual though, is whether Simon will let his detective wife, Charley Zailer in on any of his mental gymnastics.
The difference in this series is that the personal details are kept to a minimum so each of the books will work perfectly well as a stand-alone read although we do get a snapshot into the current state of affairs through her sister’s Charley’s eyes of Livvy’s ongoing complex life.
This really is a proper murder mystery albeit with extremely obscure clues and broken up by newspaper articles and letters, and of course the literary references including excerpts from the book, Origami, written by one of the main players, the stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck. All of this adds to the sheer enjoyment in reading the book which at times diverts into blind-alley’s without ever losing the overall plotline. I never think for a second that I am going to work out who the killer is in Sophie Hannah’s books but in this instance I formed an opinion, that was right but I was way off with the motive which was an absolute delight.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a fan of Sophie Hannah’s for a number of reasons but none of those would count if she didn’t have the dexterity of language, the well thought out plots and her characterisation which despite bordering on the bizarre, are such a pleasure to learn about. The numerous sub-plots and backstories all lend texture and contrast to the story.
Culver Valley Series
1. Little Face
2. Hurting Distance
3. The Point of Rescue
4. The Other Half Lives
5. A Room Swept White
6. Lasting Damage
7. A Kind of Cruel
8. The Carrier
9. The Telling Error