Sophie Hannah

So, one of my favourite Literary detectives would be Sophie Hannah’s Simon Waterhouse. An amazingly complex man he solves the mystery every time. And in general really Ms Hannah’s books completely will send you crazy. In the best way possible. Have you ever worked one out?

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Publication Date: Febuary 11th 2016 from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Netgalley

Linzi Birrell and Rhian Douglas: murdered.
Angela McCabe and Josh Norbury: murdered.

A killer the police have dubbed Billy Dead Mates is killing pairs of best friends, one by one. Just before each murder, he sends his victim a small white book…

Three regional police forces are working together to identify and catch Billy. For five months, they’ve been failing. Then a fifth victim, scared by what she’s seen and heard on the news, comes forward to seek help. Unlike Billy’s first four victims, she isn’t dead. Yet.

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar white books. A stranger gave it to her after a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy? Now Kim’s life depends on working out why she – a woman who has no close friends because she trusts no one – should attract the attention of the Best Friends Killer… And, if Billy has her in his sights, why has he waited so long to strike?

First of all I really need to just point out how in awe I am of the devilishly devious, twistedly brilliant force of Sophie Hannah’s plotting. Like no other. Agatha Christie would have writers envy…

On the same point I have to say the “Whydunnit” in this is genuis and is quite simply my favourite whydunnit in the history of all whydunnits. I’m not sure Whydunnit is actually a word but if it is not it should be.

With “The Narrow Bed” we also get Simon Waterhouse – one of my favourite literary detectives and a character I adore, although if I had to actually live with him for more than 5 minutes it would probably be me under arrest for murder. He is and has been throughout the Culver Valley crime series a most fascinating character. Again like no other, his quirks and foibles are beyond enthralling, he is in fine form in this instalment and once more I found myself endlessly sympathising with poor Charlie. Although she chose to marry him…..

This time he is tracking a killer – one who targets best friends, killing them separately and leaving no clues. The police are stumped, the motive is as elusive as the killer and there seems no way forward. Then a witness appears who believes she may have been targeted..

And there you have the thing that changes “The Narrow Bed” from the usually sparkly storytelling you get in Ms Hannah’s writing to a full on firework display. Kim Tribbeck is an amazingly well drawn character and quite simply hilarious. A stroke of genius to make her an actual stand up comedian – I spent so much of this novel absolutely crying with laughter, pretty much from the very first page when she is talking fictional detectives..an ironically clever little part of the book which just sets you up perfectly for the rest.

The story has its addictive twists and turns, some more ongoing family and other drama from our usual criminally good main characters -and with the added joy of Kim’s inner monologue and outer often insightful interaction with Simon and Co, The Narrow Bed has now taken over from Hurting Distance as my favourite Sophie Hannah novel.

I just adore these. Really great writing, really great storytelling, totally addictive plots and a cast to die for. What’s not to love?

HIGHLY recommended

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Publication Date: 13th August from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Advanced Review Copy

Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…

A standalone novel from Sophie Hannah and as I just said on Twitter, unravelling her mysteries is akin to searching for a particular needle in a pile of identical needles. It just ain’t happening.

So we meet Justine then, moving to the country with her family, having left a high powered job behind, she is determined to do nothing. The only thing she wants to do is tell anyone that will listen that she does nothing. But a strange event on the way to their new home, coupled with some disturbing phone calls and adding in some rather odd behaviour from her daughter and Justine finds herself having to do quite a lot after all.

There are two strands to the tale – Justine’s side and a fictional story written by her daughter that is so gripping you may find yourself wanting to read that more than the other. But Sophie Hannah does nothing without good reason, so you sense that this “essay” is going to be important – but how, why and what the blinking nora is going on at that school you’ll have no idea. I know. You’ll just have to read it.

Superbly crafted to keep you metaphorically chasing your own tail, whilst I was not reading this book I found myself constantly going back to it in my head, trying to come up with some reason why everything that was happening was happening. It drove me quietly insane.

Ms Hannah writes with sharp witty dialogue and a dark ironic humour that is completely dastardly – you can’t escape all you can do is keep going hoping that the fog will clear and daylight will be ahead.

It is SO addictive, the characters spark with electrical energy, the plot thickens with every page but never goes too far, and of course the ultimate solution is typical of this author in that it makes both perfect sense yet still won’t let go of you. (because you know, thats just the way it is) Definitively satisfying, I’d like to bet you’ll keep returning to this story and the characters in the pages long after leaving them behind. I know I will.

Simply brilliant. If I was wearing a hat right now I’d take it off to Sophie Hannah who writes the twistiest tales known to man yet manages to make it, in the end, seem oh so beautifully simple.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Coming April 24th from Hodder and Staughton

Thank you kindly to Hodder and Sophie for arranging an advance reading copy.

Stuck in a traffic jam, Nicki Clements sees a face she hoped never to see again. It’s definitely him, the same police officer, stopping each car on Elmhirst Road. Keen to avoid him, Nicki does a U-turn and makes a panicky escape.Or so she thinks. The next day, Nicki is pulled in for questioning in connection with the murder of Damon Blundy, controversial newspaper columnist and resident of Elmhirst Road.Nicki can’t answer any of the questions detectives fire at her. She has no idea why the killer used a knife in a way that involved no spilling of blood, or why ‘HE IS NO LESS DEAD’ was painted across Blundy’s study. And she can’t explain why she avoided Elmhirst Road that day without revealing the secret that could ruin her life. Because although Nicki is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent . . .

One of my favourite times of the year – time for a new Sophie Hannah book and time for me to head back into the world of Simon Waterhouse and co as they try and untangle yet another twisted web of murder. This year I was lucky enough to get an early look – so here we are a couple of sleepless nights later and I am done. And very happy.

Nicki is hiding a secret, So when certain things put that secret in jeopardy her paranoia causes her to take an impulsive action – one that will set off a chain of events that will eventually lead to a cold blooded killer…

Oh twisty turny wonderful tales – no-one does it better than Ms Hannah. Her extraordinary ability to write uncannily realistic yet psychologically deep characters then put them in a situation often of their own making is second to none….THEN  she sends the equally extraordinary detective Simon Waterhouse in to untangle the ensuing chaos. Every time a little gem of reading joy especially for those of us who love a brain work out as we try to untangle things right alongside him.

In this particular instalment we have a murder victim who was not particularly pleasant in  life (although I kind of loved him) a woman who is hiding, mostly from herself, along with an eclectic cast of other suspects all misbehaving in various ways – not since Agatha Christie’s novels have I come across stories with such a flair for the dramatic all wrapped up in the often mundane routines of life…all with their very own “locked room mystery” atmosphere. Its interesting therefore that it IS Sophie Hannah who will bring us a new Poirot story. A perfect fit – if anyone is going to do it then they have the right person for the job.

As always characters are key. Yes, Simon et al have their own ongoing story, but they are as always often very much in the background. Each new novel brings us new and compelling people to meet and judge and love or hate – the tales are always emotive for one reason or another, and provoke a response from the heart. As stated earlier I had a particular affinity for our victim here, but also Nicki, our main protagonist had me tearing my hair out…Ms Hannah puts you firmly inside the heads of these people and its often highly disturbing. Cleverly done.

This is definitely my favourite so far and that really IS saying something because I have loved them all. And so we come to the outcome (no spoilers ahead do not fear) of my well loved game of Beat the Author. Ms Hannah has been close to beating me with several of her previous novels and I was reliably informed going in that this might be “the one”. Well I’ll start by saying that again, as usual, this was intelligent, fascinating and outstanding plotting from someone I would be happy to call the heir apparent to the Queen of Crime when it comes to compelling mystery writing. Who won? Me?

Ha. Well. Yes. And No. I did untangle a lot of this very twisted tale but not all oh no. There was at least one part of the whole that I did not know until I was told. Now I had the main parts but Sophie Hannah is devious. Yay! Obviously I can’t tell you more – but once you have read it, do feel free to come back and ask and I’ll give you a breakdown. Ms Hannah thought at least a portion was unguessable but I think she does herself a disservice. There is no cheating of the reader here- looking back it was possible. I just did not. I call it a draw…

Five Bright Shiny Stars and an entry into my Beat the Author hall of fame for this one. Fair is fair.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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The first in what was to become my perhaps favourite ever set of books as a whole,  Little Face brings us to Alice Fancourt, who returns after a trip out of the house, to find that the baby she left behind is gone and a strange child has taken her place. The police arrive but her husband insists that she is wrong. So we meet for the first time, Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse and Sergeant Charlie Zailer, a couple of people you will get to know VERY well if you decide to read on through their story and the various mysteries they solve. Little Face is a great novel, especially for a debut – and if you like this one then please do carry on with the series- Ms Hannah improves with age and every book to follow will suck you in that bit more until you will be actively waiting for the next one to be published. I’m not going to expand my plot synopsis because if this is your first time reading Sophie Hannah you are in for a treat.. Enjoy.

 

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Hurting Distance is perhaps the most emotionally charged of the Simon Waterhouse series – especially if you are reading it as a woman. It may not be my favourite of all – see further down the page for that one.. but it is emotive and also has one of the best resolutions in a mystery novel I had read for a while. Naomi suffered a trauma in her past – so awful that she has never told a single soul. Then she meets and falls in love with Robert. When he disappears she is beside herself – especially as his wife insists that he is fine, and not in fact missing. In her emotional state she makes a strange decision – if she can make the police believe that he is a danger to others they will look for him anyway. So using her traumatic event as a story, she accuses him of a most horrific crime. Imaginative and conversely realistic, the tale twists and turns until it resolves itself very satisfactorily (in my opinion). Brilliant.

 

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In “The Point of Rescue” we meet Sally Thorning, who a while ago had a short affair with a man named Mark Bretherick. Watching the news one morning she sees that Mark’s wife and daughter are dead. But the man on the news is not Mark Bretherick….And so the mystery begins. I loved this book because of Sally mainly – a lot of her domestic situation at the time I read it matched mine – the children and the husband and the day to day stuff that gets you – and the need occasionally to just run away from it all! However in Sally’s “getting away” period she has started a series of events that may well threaten both her life and that of her famiy.  Its a complicated affair as is usual but also as usual intriguing and exciting. You won’t get it. Well maybe you will. I didnt. I never do. Sigh. Darn that Sophie Hannah and all her weird and wonderful brain jiggery.

 

 

 

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So we come to “A Room Swept White” my favourite of the Simon Waterhouse series and possibly the one that bends your brain the most. Fliss Benson receives a card. The card has sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four – numbers that mean nothing to her. Meanwhile, one of the women involved in a documentary Fliss may have to reluctantly work on, is found dead in her home..and in her pocket is a card with sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four…

I think I liked this book because Fliss is such a terrific character. She’s funny – she ends up in all sorts of situations in a very slapstick but realistic way and that adds to the whole ambience of the reading experience..she is maybe even not as flawed as Ms Hannah’s usual ladies, although she obviously has her “baggage” don’t we all , but boy she still ends up in all kinds of trouble. The mystery is sharp – it IS possible to work it out, but I didnt. Only with hindsight. Isnt hindsight a wonderful thing? Great fun as always.

 

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“Kind Cruel, Kind of Cruel”….words said by our protaganist, Amber Hewerdine, under hypnosis. She knows she’s seen those words somewhere before…but she can’t quite remember where. Then she is arrested on suspicion of the murder of a woman she has never heard of…So begins Sophie Hannah’s latest twisted tale. Facing her insomnia, trying to work out what she has buried in her subconcious, we follow Amber as her life twist and turns – is it something to do with the death of her friend, who’s children she now has custody of? Or is she suffering a false memory and could it be something else entirely. As usual for Ms Hannah, its unlikely that you will know until it is revealed. And again as usual you will find yourself actively engaging with the characters in either a love or hate relationship. Simon Waterhouse is on top form once more with his weird and wonderful ways and Charlie is right there along with him, rolling her eyes and getting into all sorts of scrapes all by herself. The beauty of these books is the ongoing relationship between these two…and a stranger relationship you are unlikely to encounter. Brilliant.

 

 

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As usual for Ms Hannah, I found this book to be extremely intriguing and very well written. Having read an odd review I expected to be reading mostly poetry, but in fact the poetry used was relevant to the plot and indeed, moved things along apace without being at all intrusive. All the old favourite characters were back, and still managed amidst the mayhem of their own personal lives, to solve the mystery.
Tim Breary has confessed to the murder of his wife, Francine, however all is not as it appears. Did he really do it? Can he possibly be literally unable to give a motive? Simon and cohorts unravel the truth behind the lies with the help of Gaby Struthers, ex “lover” of Tim’s, who having had a rather odd experience whilst abroad in Germany finds herself embroiled once more in his life.
As is often the case with Sophie Hannah’s novels, you are not going to like everyone you meet – in fact I found myself actively disliking a lot of them and feeling sorry for the victim, who supposedly was a bit of a monster in life. I was very satisfied with the solution and it was great fun getting there!

One Response to Sophie Hannah

  1. Cleo says:

    Fantastic review, I always have to read the latest Sophie Hannah book and so pleased that I get another episode of the fantastic Simon Waterhouse.

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