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by Sophie Hannah
Hodder & Stoughton, February 2013
460 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340980729

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Francine is dead. Tim, her husband, is in prison having confessed to her murder. Gaby, an old friend of Tim, finds herself travelling to Germany with Francine's ex-carer, Lauren. At some point, Lauren comments that innocent men should not go to prison, which sows doubts about Tim's guilt in Gaby's mind. Francine's friends are a close group and this makes finding the truth very difficult. Simon, Charlie and Sam, the usual police team, try to investigate, despite their own internal problems. People get hurt, and even killed, before the mystery gets solved. The book explores the tortuous way in which the characters try to conceal the truth, and the consequences of their actions.

The plot is intriguing and complex and at times a difficult one to get hold of. It is clear that Francine has been killed and much of the book involves exploring what people know or don't know. There is a lot of guessing about what may be in people's minds. Given that the characters are all essentially odd, it can at times be quite depressing to continually try to analyse their thoughts and actions. The amount of action is indeed very limited, the writing being mainly analytical and at times the book teeters on the tipping point between intriguing and tedious. The police team have appeared in at least one previous novel and continue to interact in ways that make them human, but that leave them oddly separated from the main storyline. The underlying issue about mental cruelty, however, permeates all aspects of the book.

The writing as always is of the highest standard. There are some wonderful pieces of descriptive prose such as the description of the hotel room in Germany. It is so vivid, the look, the feel, and the smell all conjure up features that any traveller on a limited budget will have experienced. The dialogue flows beautifully, with a mixture of explicit speech, internal thoughts, and description, that sheds light on the visual dynamics of the people having the discussion. Only an experienced and confident writer can play with words in such a skillful way.

Sylvia Maughan is a retired university lecturer, based in Bristol.

Reviewed by Sylvia Maughan, February 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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