Oh, Sophie Hannah. You are so good at writing books that make me stay up way too late because I HAVE to know how they finish.
Here’s the set up for this one: Amber Hewerdine goes to see a hypnotherapist for her insomnia. Amber’s life is pretty stressful: her best friend recently died in an arson attack, and left Amber in charge of her two daughters. Plus Amber’s sister-in-law takes every opportunity to hurt her, while acting like a perfect angel to the rest of the family. And then there was that incident at Christmas a few years ago, when half the family disappeared for 24 hours without ever explaining why…
Amber is a much better narrator than in some of the other books; she’s confident and daring, even though she suspects that she’s going crazy. Of course, she’s got her secrets, too, from not only her family but the reading audience as well.
Like any book by Hannah (in my experience), the ending doesn’t *quite* live up to the rest of the book. But it’s still a fun read, trying to guess everyone’s secrets and how all the plotlines come together. Charlie & Simon haters will be happy that the book focuses mostly on Amber, and the two detectives are given an even smaller role than normal. I, for one, love those two lunatics and was pleased to see that some of their personal issues are not quite resolved, but worked through at least a little bit. Oh, and the Snowman is back! Yay!
Sophie Hannah’s books are republished in America under new titles, so The Other Woman’s House was originally published as Lasting Damage, which seems like a more appropriate title for this thriller.
I have read every one of Hannah’s Spilling CID novels, except for Kind of Cruel, which I’m starting now. Her books follow similar patterns, but never get dull. They’re typically narrated by middle aged women in shitty situations, often either unable to trust their spouse or hiding a secret themselves. There’s a common element of suffocating families and weak mothers. The narrators are always unreliable. In each novel, the crime is investigated by police officers Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, two of the most frustrating individuals I’ve ever encountered in fiction. All of this sounds bad, but I love these damn books.
Hannah weaves convoluted stories which bend and twist and make the books impossible to put down. In The Other Woman’s House, the main character, Connie Bowskill, sees a dead body on a real estate website at 1am. By the time her husband enters the room, the body is gone. The reasons that she was on that website, looking at that house — all of that ties into the strange relationship she has with her husband. The identity of the woman does, too.
Hannah writes good thrillers with hard to guess endings. If you like that sort of thing, check this series out. Start at the beginning, though — Charlie and Simon are confusing enough even if you’ve known them all along.
The eighth entry into Hannah’s popular series featuring Charlie Zailer. A terrifically deep dark plot is offset with some very mundane domestic nonsense in Zailer’s personal life. Read it for the murder investigation but skip the unimportant stuff, yeah? Full review on my blog here
Part of Hammer Horror’s new book series, where they get well-known novelists to write them horror novellas (though most seem to push the definition of novella, size-wise), this is a bone-rattling hair-curling good read from poet/crime novelist Hannah. It starts off with a total first world problem – the thoroughly upper-middle-class Louise has her bedtime disturbed by a noisy neighbour. Louise lives in Cambridge, in a million-pound Victorian terrace house. Her slightly wet husband is planning home renovation – classic displacement act, apparently – while she is quietly bereft of her son, seven years old and at boarding school. The boarding school is part of the gilded trap she lives in. Everyone thinks it’s a wonderful opportunity for her son, Joseph, a talented singer now part of an elite choir, and he’s happy there. But Louise can’t stand not having him at home, and her frayed nerves are torn to shreds by the 80s soft rock anthems her neighbour inflicts on her during his weekend parties.
As someone who once came home from surgery, lay down on her bed, and was instantly woken by a builder playing bloody Coldplay metres from her head, my sympathies were with Louise. Her neighbour is a classic boor, a selfish stoner who mocks her when she asks him to turn it down, and during those scenes I was white knuckled with rage, not fear. Hannah is brilliant at this – winding you up with primal fears hidden in domestic settings. Her wry sense of humour shines through, especially in Louise’s assessment of her fellow choir parents and the patronising choirmaster. The drip, drip of micro-aggressions, lack of understanding from her duffer of a husband, and sleep deprivation drive her to desperation.
The second half of the story is where the spookiness ramps up. In the book’s afterword, the author says she set out to write a proper ghost story, and not leave the reader with an ambiguous ‘was it real or was it in her head?’ Turn of the Screw-style ending. I think she’s effective at that, though personally I think I enjoyed the first half’s depiction of suburban contentment falling to pieces more than the eerie second section. This probably says a lot about me. But it was a satisfying read, and carried off the first person narrator very well.
How can saying one sentence of five words while under hypnosis lead to you being arrested for a murder of someone you didn’t even know? To fully understand how, you’ll need to read this dark thriller. To find out what I thought, read my review here