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Crime Beat

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Finding Sophie Hannah

Sophie HannahLike many South African families, I can’t just pop down the road to visit the new grandchildren. I have to get on a plane and fly to a different continent – and it’s a long way from Cape Town to Vancouver. But I got lucky in Exclusive Books at Cape Town airport. I picked up Sophie Hannah’s Little Face (Penguin) I was a fan by the time we landed in Amsterdam where I found Point of Rescue , her second novel. Airport books at Seattle had the third one – Hurting Distance. I hardly had time to look at the grandchildren…

I don’t know why I’d never heard of Sophie Hannah. She’s an award-winning English poet and novelist with an Oxford and Cambridge background. She’s also written four best-selling titles in the crime genre which have been translated into an impressive array of foreign languages. I can certainly understand why. She reminds me in some ways of Kate Atkinson. Her stories have great plots – intricate, devious and involving – and are funny and entertaining while addressing some serious social issues. Each one features detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer – interesting characters in their own right – but it’s the heroines who really hooked me. Hannah dribbles in tantalizing snippets of information which had me wondering if I could really trust their version of events. In the end, I had no idea who I could trust.. And, joy of joys, the endings are great too.

Little FaceA few details to tempt you further. Little Face is a gripping tale wound around post-natal depression. A new mother leaves her baby with her husband for the first time – and when she returns, it’s a different baby in the crib. Hannah alternates between the fraught narration of a heroine in unbearable circumstances to an omniscient third person who gives the perspective of the cop’s investigation. Red herrings and unexpected twists abound with the truth only coming to light in the final chapter.

Hurting DistanceHurting Distance uses the technique of alternate narrations equally effectively. Interestingly, the heroine makes sun-dials. She’s involved in a passionate affair with an enigmatic lorry driver who will only see her once a week for a few hours in the same seedy hotel room. Then he disappears. When Detective Waterhouse and Zailer are sceptical about her missing person report, she files a false accusation of a particularly lurid rape to persuade them to extend their search. Again, it’s a highly original, complex plot which eventually ties up all the ends in some surprising ways.

Point of RescueIt’s hard to believe Hannah can come up with another arresting plot but Point of Rescue also had me up til the midnight hours. It’s about a harassed working mother with a clueless husband and two demanding kids who found some diversion in a brief liason with a man who then appears on TV. But it’s not the same man although his background details are identical. And now his wife and daughter are dead. This time the narrative switches from the housewife to the diary of the dead woman, with input from the detectives of course.

The other Half LivesI can’t wait to get my hands on The Other Half Lives, her new release.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 2nd, 2009 @17:57 #

    Duly noted, Barbara, ta. Looks fascinating, and not too high on the gore-meter -- can you confirm?

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Barbara</a>
    July 3rd, 2009 @10:09 #

    Hi Helen - you can indeed approach with confidence.I think she's more into character assassination than body count.xx

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 3rd, 2009 @10:41 #

    Ooh, my kinda gal indeed.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Mike Nicol</a>
    Mike Nicol
    July 3rd, 2009 @11:40 #

    Does that make it low down or high up the helenmeter?


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