Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Narrow Bed – Sophie Hannah #20booksofsummer

Book 13

Crime Thriller 5*s
Crime Thriller

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

Standalone Books

A Game for all the Family

First Published UK: 11 February 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages 416
Genre: Crime Thriller (series)
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Carrier – Sophie Hannah

Psychological Thriller 3*'s
Psychological Thriller

I have read all Sophie Hannah’s books and having turned the final page I’m left with the feeling that I’m not clever enough to have ‘got it’ for this one.

Tim Breary is in prison for killing his wife, an invalid who is confined to bed and silence due to a stroke, but he won’t give the local police; Simon Waterhouse, Sam, Charlie, Proust etc. a reason why. As always these characters from the series have their own hang-ups and point scoring to be getting on with alongside solving the mystery. To add to these characters we have a household all backing Tim Breary’s account of the murder including the care assistant Lauren.

Sophie Hannah creates excellent puzzles and the main reason for not awarding this book less than 3 stars is that the interplay and teasing out of human behaviour is fantastic, she is clearly fascinated by the human psyche. There are some truly horrible characters but sadly I have come across the aspects of behaviour that make them so appalling. This is what the author convey so well in my opinion. On the whole we manage difficult people we meet to minimise offence while she gives us a glimpse of what the long-term effect can be. The large amount of poetry used to tell the story has detracted from my enjoyment as it isn’t something that appeals to me and has contributed to the feeling that I have missed something important.

The characterisation was good, the observations wonderful, as always, I just wish that having read the whole book that parts which were emphasised throughout the book were never properly explained, or if they were they clearly passed me by. On reflection the whole series of Sophie Hannah’s books seem to appeal to different people, I loved Kind of Cruel but didn’t really take to A Room Swept White so I will continue to read what she offers whilst keeping my expectations of enjoyment in check.

I received this book through Amazon Vine. I’m slightly upset that my reading year has started on a disappointing note but hopefully it will pick up soon.

Kind of Cruel (Spilling CID, #7)Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read each and every one of Sophie Hannah’s six previous books and had this one on pre-order, something I never do. The story is laid out over a matter of two years but many of the events discussed had already happened. The narrator is a hypnotherapist who explains that memory is different to the stories we tell to make fragmented memories whole. Ususally I find devices like this, at best, slightly annoying. In this book I found the therapist’s words interesting, giving real insight into the character’s lives. The therapist is trying to help Amber Hewerdine with her insomnia, Amber Hewerdine wants to know why her sister-in-law disappeared over Christmas Day years previously.

This book is superb, it has every element that creates a good psychological thriller. There is a cast of believable characters,including the ongoing back story of Simon and Charlie Waterhouse along with the truly awful boss Proust. The mystery has twists and turns right up to the end. Although the motive was unlikely, it was not so off the wall that I felt let down, the whole story was pure enjoyment.

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A Room Swept White (Spilling CID, #5)A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book focusses on mothers who have been convicted of killing their babies. Sophie Hannah mixes in a puzzle and a murder or two producing both variety and interest for the reader. The only thing that lets this book down is that the characters weren’t likeable and so unlike some books (including her previous ones) I could put the book down.

I felt the second half of the book was much better than the first but as other reviewers have noted many of the themes weren’t followed through to any sort of conclusion. That said I’m glad I bought this one.

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