Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

Oh Sophie!

Writing about mysteries is always difficult. It is so important that facts are revealed, characters are uncovered, in the right order and at the right pace, and just one stray point could spoil the book for another reader. And that is particularly true for books like yours. They are so gripping as they twist and turn on quite extraordinary ways.

But I think it would be safe for me to explain the scenario, wouldn’t it?

In the early hours of the morning Connie is lying awake. She gets up, heads to her computer, pulls up an estate agent’s website and zooms in on a particular property. A property quite beyond the reach of Connie and her husband.

She studies the pictures carefully. She looks at the virtual tour. And she sees a woman’s body in a pool of blood in the lounge. Connie rushes to fetch her husband, but when he looks at the tour he sees the same lounge with no body, no sign of anything amiss.

He says that she must have imagined what she saw, but Connie is certain that she did nothing of the kind. She believes her eyes.

A very promising scenario,

And a classic Sophie Hannah heroine. A woman who has experienced something extraordinary, something seems quite impossible. A woman who is not believed, but will not give in.

I see a pattern but, to be fair, I must say that all of Sophie Hannah’s heroines are a diverse group of women and their circumstances and the situations they find themselves in are nicely varied.

Of course the detectives of the Culver Valley police force, Sophie Hannah’s serial characters, became involved. When I first started reading this series I wasn’t too taken with them, but they have grown on me. It may be a problem that I read the books out of order, but it look me a while to realise that they formed a series. Certainly the blurbs gave nothing away.

In the early part of the book I felt that a little too much time was spent on their ongoing storylines, but things soon settled down and setting their perceptions and discoveries against Connie’s worked very well.

The story twisted and turned in quite extraordinary ways. Some were “aha” twists, some were “ooh” twists, and some were “what on earth” twists. One – the one about the addresses – stretched credulity a little too far, but clever plotting, interesting characters and excellent writing kept me turning the pages. I was enthralled, and baffled. 

The final twist was very clever and the conclusion dramatic. It had been foreshadowed at the beginning of the book and yet it retained the element of surprise. Very, very clever.

I raced through Lasting Damage and I loved it, but it wasn’t quite perfect.

A little too much felt familiar, and I could draw rather too many comparisons with other books in this series.

Some familiarity is good of course, and Lasting Damage is a very, very good book. But I know that Sophie Hannah can write so well, and I am quite sure that she doesn’t need a safety net, and that if she could change just a little more she could advance from very, very good to excellent.

But, of course, she can write whatever she likes, and whatever she writes I will most definitely read.

15 responses

  1. Great review — thanks. I love Sophie Hannah’s books but like you I do have a few slight reservations sometimes. Not enough to stop me gobbling them up, though!

    • I was engrossed as I read, but afterwards I had to admit those reservations to themselves. I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read Sophie Hannah’s earlier books and short stories and seen there how much she could do.

  2. The beginning of the book sounds quite fascinating and unique. I’ve never come across this author so thank you for bringing her to my attention. A pity about the overfamiliarity but I too can forgive an author a few irregularities when I enjoy their writing so much.

    • Sophie Hannah comes up with some amazing scenarios. Her books are rather darker than most of the mysteries you read, but she does what she does very well and so I’d definitely recommend giving her a try.

    • Yes! Although I have reservations it won’t stop me orderinf in copies of subsequent books just as soon as I spot them.

    • Sophie Hannah does puzzle type mysteries very well. If that sort of book appeals I’d say try another one, but if it doesn’t she’s probably not the author for you.

  3. I have her first book on my pile and keep hearing such good things about her–I really need to read it soon. I have heard that there is a sameness to her stories after a while, but it sounds like she makes up for that in the way she grips her reader.

    • Danielle, you must! Sophie Hannah does so many things that you’ll appreciate so well – scenarios and characterisation are two that come to mind – that I’m sure you will be able to forgive her for relatively minor failings.

  4. Fleur, I think you know that I have begun to have exactly the same reservations about Sophie Hannah’s books, even though I think each one of them is a superb piece of individual story-telling. I just think she has the ability to write without having to rely on a formula and I hope she will explore that ability at some point in the future. Have you tried her poetry or short story collection?

  5. I couldn’t finish one of her books, sad to say. She is a writer I just cannot read. And the prejudice remains; I disliked that book so much that I will never attempt to read her again. I know. Reflects badly on me, but that’s how I feel.

  6. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: April 16, 2011 | Semicolon

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