Friday, 25 March 2011
Lasting Damage ~ Sophie Hannah
Connie Bowskill is worried and, as we very soon discover, she's been worried for sometime. That worry forces her out of bed in the early hours of the morning to surf the net for details of a house she's seen that is up for sale. Bringing up the estate agent's website she finds that there is a virtual tour available and so she clicks on the button in the hope that she will find evidence that will settle those worries one way or another. Well, she finds evidence all right, but it isn't what she was expecting, because what she sees is a woman lying face down in a pool of blood. However, when she brings her husband downstairs and gets him to search the site, the woman has gone. What is more there is no sign of the blood either. The carpet is perfectly clean, the room perfectly normal.
And so the process of investigation begins and as usual it isn't until the very last pages of the novel that it becomes clear which of the many twists and turns in the plot will finally reveal the truth. Inevitably, it will take a mind that can see past the obvious and join dots that are so far apart as almost to belong to different puzzles to solve the mystery. Which is another way of saying that it will take Simon Waterhouse. And this is a problem because as the story begins he and Charlie are hundreds of miles away on their honeymoon. But then you surely didn't ever expect that to be the proverbial bed of roses, did you?
This is a very good book. They are all very good books. However, I am beginning to have a 'but'. While each of Hannah's books works extremely well as a single novel they all follow exactly the same pattern, not only in respect of the way in which they are structured but also in terms of the type of crime and the nature of the victim. Now, I am a great believer in pattern. To quote Kenneth Pike, man is a pattern-making, pattern-seeking animal. But, having shown that we know how the pattern works the trick to keeping an audience's attention is to break it without having the structure fall down around our heads, especially when the chosen pattern is as obviously signalled to the reader as it is in these books. Hannah is a good enough writer to do that and I am beginning to wish that she would find a way of making her work fresh. For me, she is starting to sound the same note rather too often.