Strengths: Makes you rethink your thoughts on what’s happening – many times over.
Weaknesses: Connie can be a bit of an annoying character, as she’s so unsure of herself.
Why I read it: I love Sophie Hannah’s books (they’re a bit hard to find in Australia). Plus it was $5.
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
I’ve always wondered why Sophie Hannah isn’t more popular in Australia – she writes fantastic psychological thrillers that look at a case from both the victim and police point of view. They’re the type of thriller that keeps you reading through the night and into the early morning. Each book of hers is well researched and original. So why do many bookstores here stock only one (or none!) of her books? The only reason I found this book was because it was at the $5 bookstore. I hadn’t seen it elsewhere. It’s not cool – Sophie Hannah deserves a much wider audience, up there with Tess Gerritsen, Minette Walters and other thriller writers.
So why should you read this book? Apart from that it’s a darn fine read that questions the seemingly normal Connie Bowskill’s mental health, it’s different to other thrillers. We have alternate chapters from Connie, who thinks she saw a murdered woman in a real estate home open video, and the Spilling CID (mainly Simon and Charlie, but Sam plays a smaller role). This is the sixth book in the Spilling CID series, but it doesn’t matter which order you read them in (I’ve read them completely out of order depending on availability). The only thing that remains constant is the presence of the police characters (Simon and Charlie are the main ones). The crime and victims are always different.
Connie Bowskill is described by others as sensitive and nervous – someone who needs looking after. So when she sees the dead body on the screen and no one else can, her mind is called into question. Why would she be looking at for sale websites – she’s not planning on moving. Connie is certain of what she saw and starts researching on her own, culminating in a tense finale. The language focuses on the action, but the insight into the character’s thoughts and setting description are more detailed than many of the other books in this genre.
Some aspects of the plot are possibly a little too coincidental for real life, but that’s the beauty of fiction. All those seemingly disparate clues come together beautifully – it will have you thinking about how everything fitted together long after you closed the book. It’s suspenseful and some of the characters are delightfully creepy in their descriptions and actions. Connie in particular is a different character to judge – did she really see the dead body? Is this a call for attention or something more sinister? The way Connie’s family treats her is disgusting and as we see that, we start to think there might be something to it after all… I felt awful that I had been sucked into doubting Connie, but it’s also a very good skill that Hannah has to create empathy for a fairly weak-willed character.
Definitely one of the better thriller writers out there now, Sophie Hannah’s next book, The Carrier, will be released in Australia in February 2013.