Review: Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

51T2Wtx1HsLWhat I thought:

I was lured in to reading this book after having read Sophie Hannah’s very early books and loving them (and then later on, not so much). This one sounded intriguing though: Cara Burrows, on holiday from England, walks into the wrong hotel room and sees the most famous murder victim in the USA, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder. Or does she?

Well, where to begin? I scratched my head for most of this book, wondering if it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek or even a spoof of this very crowded genre. Having since seen other reviews, it appears I’m not alone. My reading of this book was accompanied by much eye-rolling, some jaw-dropping and a spot of guffawing at its incredulity.

Cara Burrows goes half way round the world, leaving her family with no way of contacting her and spending all the family savings, to an over-the-top, luxurious American spa for a reason, that as it becomes apparent, just seems ridiculously dramatic. There is much made of Cara giving her phone to a complete stranger of a cab driver so that her family can’t contact her, and less than 24 hours later she is setting up an Instagram account and posting shots of herself to tag in her children to show she’s “OK”. This is an example of the many times I had to suspend my disbelief at a plot which felt so contrived and clunky. Cara herself is not a character I cared about or could even empathise with, and the Americans were, in the main, such caricatures I was almost embarrassed for the author.

Verdict:

This could have been a good story – the premise certainly piqued my interest but I couldn’t see past the gaping plot holes and Hannah’s attempt to stitch them together with something – anything – however tenuous, to get us to the next part of the book. I am more bewildered than disappointed if I’m honest. If this does turn out to be a spoof, then it’s a good one, if not then I can’t recommend I’m afraid.

The Thrill Week Blog Hop

Thrill Week is here! Mwahahahahahaaaa!!!

It’s finally here – Thrill Week – where myself and 6 other blogs will be celebrating all things crime fiction (one of my favourite genres). Pop on over to host Marce’s blog (Tea Time with Marce) to see her answers to the following questions and then have a peek at these lovely bloggers too – you’re bound to get some ideas and inspiration about which books you should be reading:

Best O’Books

Cafe of Dreams Book Reviews

Mental Foodie – A Book and Food Lover

 
 
 

  So to kick off the week, here are my answers to the questionnaire:

 

1) What is your favourite genre out of Thriller, Mystery, Suspense and Horror? Why?

I think I would have to say mystery. I love a good whodunnit and especially love trying to work out the perpetrator as early on as I can (what I especially love is, despite being a seasoned crime fic reader, the author can still fool me).

2) Who are your top 3 authors in those genres?

Tess Gerritsen, Val McDermid, Mary Higgins Clark.

Both Gerritesen and McDermid I love because of their ability to pull me in from page one with promises of high body counts, red herrings and clever psychological and forensic detail. I like intelligent crime fiction and these two are among the best for me. Mary Higgins Clark, on the other hand, is my Queen of Comfort in the crime genre. Her books are pretty formulaic but that’s what I love as I know what I’m going to get and she has never failed to deliver. I think MHC is a fantastic author who gets overlooked a lot but, for me, if I ever need a comfort read then she is at the top of my pile (and despite her books being formulaic, I hardly ever guess whodunnit until the end).

I am really excited to have have interviewed Mary Higgins Clark last year and I also have interviews with both Tess Gerritsen and Val McDermid coming up shortly so keep an eye out for those 🙂

3)Tell us who your favourite male and female authors are in the genre?

Female: Tess Gerritsen, Val McDermid, Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha Christie, Elly Griffiths, S J Bolton, Karen Rose, Tana French, Lisa Gardner

Male: Linwood Barclay, Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Peter Robinson, James Patterson, Robert Goddard

Interestingly enough, I was able to immediately write down all the names of my favourite female authors, but with the exception of the first two males I had to go off and check what books I had read (which was accompanied by many “oh yeah”‘s) Wonder why that is?

4) What book do you remember loving but don’t remember the details?

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I read this when I was in my early teens and again in my twenties but I don’t remember a thing about it other than there are 10 people who are called to an island and one by one they are killed off and the reader has to try to work out who is doing it. I could read it again today and still have no idea until the end. In fact, I really must read it again – it’s a fantastic book and I highly recommend it!

5) What has been your favourite book this year so far:

ThrillerThe Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

MysterySacrifice by S J Bolton

SuspenseBefore I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

HorrorCarrie by Stephen King

  6) What series or trilogy would you recommend ?
 
  Rizzoli & IslesTess Gerritsen (Fantastic Detective / Forensic Pathologist duo who solve some really interesting and unusuak crimes between them. My favourites!)

Hill & JordanVal McDermid (Detective and Criminal Pyschologist who work together to solve serial killer cases and really get into the mind of the perpetrators. Brilliant series!)

Ruth & NelsonElly Griffiths (I love these two! Detective and Forensic Archaeologist who solve some old and new crimes when bones have been found. You gotta love Ruth & Nelson!)

The Millenium TrilogyStieg Larsson (Swedish Journalist, Blomkvist, gets involved in some high profile cases with the aid of his rather unique sidekick, Lisbeth Salander.)

Inspector Alan BanksPeter Robinson (Set in the Yorkshire Dales where it’s supposed to be rural and sleepy except bodies keep turning up, leaving Inspector Alan Banks to investigate. Great series.)

Gretchen LowellChelsea Cain (Not for the feint hearted. Gretchen Lowell is sick, sick, sick but you can’t help but read about her exploits).

  7) Recommend 1 or 2 books that you think more around the blogosphere should read
 
  If you want a proper crime, serial killer type book then you should definitely read Retribution by Jilianne Hoffman. I loved this book – pacey, gripping, creepy. Just brilliant!
 
 
  For something a little gentler then I would recommend Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. It’s a great book and I never saw the twist coming at the end!

  8 What authors have you tried and look forward to reading more from them?

Linda Castello – I have read her first book in a series of crime books set in the Amish community, Sworn to Silence,  and loved it so I am looking forward to reading the next two

Jane Casey – Has written 3 books and I have only read the second one, The Burning, which I loved.

Karen RoseI have only read her latest book, You Belong to Me, and I really enjoyed it and am very excited to know that I have 10 more of hers waiting to be read!

Stephen Beckett – Againm, I have only read the first one (The Chemistry of Death) out of the 4 books he has written so far with the same lead character so I have more to look forward to.

Jilianne Hoffman – Despite loving Retribution (see above) I still haven’t read the other book by the author but I do have it at home so I am looking forward to diving in to that one.

  9) What authors in the above genres are on your TBR list but you haven’t tried yet?  Who should I read soon?
 
  I am always on the look out for new crime ficiton authors so I am open to suggestions.  Based on my likes, which authors or books do YOU think I should be reading?
 
 
  Have you seen anything you like? Do you already any of the authors above or do you think you might give any of them a go? And don’t forget those recommendations 🙂
 
 

  I will be doing another Thrill Week post on 6th September and I have the MOST AMAZING GIVEAWAY too! A total of  FIFTEEN BOOKS to giveaway so make sure you drop by!

 
 

Author Interview: Sophie Hannah

 A big welcome to Sophie Hannah

Do you like books where the pages turn themselves and where your cats / dogs / kids don’t get fed ‘cos you can’t put the damn book down? Do you like books where you’re sure you have it sussed and within the turn of a page, another plot twist blows all your theories out of the window? If so, you’ll love pyschological thriller writer Sophie Hannah.

Sophie Hannah was (according to Wikipedia) born in Manchester to parents who are also authors – Norman Geras and Adele Geras. She now lives in Cambridge with her husband and children after re-locating from West Yorkshire (that’s where I live!!!). She started her writing career in the ’90’s when she published five collections of poetry and in 2004, Sophie won first prize in the Daphne Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition for her suspense story The Octopus Nest, which is now published in her first collection of short stories The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets.

Sophie Hannah is now also the author of five internationally bestselling psychological thrillers – Little Face, Hurting Distance, The Point of Rescue, The Other Half Lives and A Room Swept White and her latest book Lasting Damage which I reviewed here yesterday.

Without further ado

Boof – Your sixth book in a series of pychological thriller books, Lasting Damage, has just been published. What made you pick this genre to begin with?

Sophie – Psychological thrillers are what I most love to read – I’m addicted to them! I love crime novels in which the motive turns out to be something really psychologically unusual, rather than the sort of motive that would make sense to everyone, such as inheriting money or freeing yourself from blackmail. Which is why my baddies tend to commit crimes for reasons that make perfect sense according to their own twisted internal logic, but wouldn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else. My favourite kind of thriller is one where the key to the mystery lies inside someone’s mind.
 
Boof – What process do you use to write your books: do you have a plot all mapped out from the beginning or do you see where the plot and characters take you? Have you ever been surprised how a book has turned out?

Sophie – I write each book in a slightly different way. I like to vary some aspect of the process each time, because novelty inspires me. So with some books (Hurting Distance, The Point of Rescue, Lasting Damage) I plan out the entire plot from start to finish, whereas with others (Little Face, A Room Swept White, and the one I’m writing now) I feel my way from chapter to chapter, with no firm plan. For my fourth novel, The Other Half Lives, I planned the first three quarters in great detail, but found, when it came to planning the final quarter, that I just didn’t fancy it – I wanted to leave it open and see where the writing took me. Though with each book, I know my starting and finishing points before I start writing – who did what, and why.
 
Boof – Having author parents, were books a big part of your life growing up? Which books were your favourites as a child?

Sophie – Books have always been massively important to me. My first favourite authors were Enid Blyton, whose Secret Seven and Five Find-Outers mysteries I adored, and E W Hildick, who wrote a series of books about a gang of child detectives called The McGurk Mysteries. At around age 12 I discovered Agatha Christie and fell in love with her books too.
 
Boof – Who are your literary heros now?

Sophie – My current favourite authors are Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Tana French, Susan Hill, Geoff Dyer and Val Mc Dermid. And my favourite poet is Wendy Cope.
 
Boof – Have you ever read a book and though “damn! I wish I had written that!”?

Sophie –  The book I wish I had written is Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson – it’s a debut thriller, out later this year, about a woman whose mind erases all her memories every night while she’s sleeping. Every morning she has to be reintroduced to her entire life and history by her husband Ben…and then one day she finds a secret journal, full of her own handwriting, in which the first thing she’s written is ‘Don’t trust Ben’. The plot is a work of genius.
 
Boof – You’re stranded on a desert island for a year: which 3 books do you take with you and why?

Sophie – I would take Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer and Coming From Behind by Howard Jacobson, the two funniest books I have ever read, and The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch, my all-time favourite novel.


 
Boof – You can time travel to any period in history for a day: where and when would you go and why?

Sophie – I don’t think I’d want to visit any part of the past, to be honest. I like the present. I even find it hard to read historical fiction. My husband is always saying he’d like to go back to Roman times or the late nineteenth century, and whenever I hear him say it, I think, ‘But that was before you could watch back-to-back episodes of House on DVD, or do all your Christmas shopping on Amazon, or have a takeaway curry delivered to your door.’ I really do love the present!
 
Boof – Do you have any famous fans?

Sophie – Yes, I have two very famous fans that I know of, but I don’t feel it’d be fair to say who they are. One is a comedian and one is a politician.
 
Boof – You are working on a new book now, Kind of Cruel: can you give us any sneaky previews or tidbits?

Sophie – When Amber Hewerdine consults a hypnotherapist as a desperate last resort, she doesn’t expect that anything much will change.

She doesn’t expect it to help with her chronic insomnia…

She doesn’t expect to hear herself, under hypnosis, saying words that mean nothing to her: ‘Kind, cruel, kind of cruel’ – words she has seen somewhere before, if only she could remember where…

She doesn’t expect to be arrested two hours later, as a direct result of having spoken those words out loud, in connection with the brutal murder of Katharine Allen, a woman she’s never heard of…

That’s about all I can say at this point, because it’s still very much a work in progress. I will say this, though: one of the things I love to do is take a staple – almost a cliche – of crime fiction, and twist it slightly so that it becomes something very unusual. So, I was inspired to write about hypnotherapy because I have an ardent fan in Canada who is a hypnotherapist, and in my head there was this idea of the standard, cliched use of hypnotherapy in crime fiction: a witness who thinks he doesn’t remember anything suddenly produces, under hypnosis, crucial clues that solve case. I knew I didn’t want to write about hypnotherapy in that same old cliched way, but I loved the idea of a woman going to see a hypnotherapist for an ‘ordinary’ reason, and then getting dragged into a baffling murder case tangentially.

Boof – Is there a question you wish I had asked and if so what is it?

Sophie –  I’d like you to ask me about my TV series, which I’m really excited about! Hat Trick (makers of Father Ted and Have I Got News For You) are adapting my thrillers for TV, and the series title is Case Sensitive. The first one they’re doing is my third novel, The Point of Rescue, which will be broadcast on ITV1 in early May, possibly over the bank holiday weekend. I’ve seen the DVD already, and it’s amazing – they’ve done a really brilliant job. My series detective charcters Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer are played by Darren Boyd (Los Dos Bros, Whites) and Olivia Williams (The Ghost, An Education, The Sixth Sense), and they are both perfect, such fantastic actors. All the actors in it are brilliant. I feel so lucky that they’re willing to pretend to be people I made up!
 
Boof – Quick fire round:
Favourite colour: green
Favourite animal: elephants
Favourite food: curry – very hot
Favourite song: Hymne a l’Amour by Edith Piaf
Favourite film: Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
Favourite holiday destination: Hotel Les Sources Des Alpes, Leucherbad, Switzerland
Favourite childhood memory: Assuming childhood finishes when you turn eighteen, my favourite childhood memory is of the day before my eighteenth birthday, and realising that very soon I would no longer be a minor, and therefore I wouldn’t have to do what my parents told me anymore. I wasn’t well suited to childhood – from the age of about thirteen, I was very strong-willed and hated the idea that, just because I was unfortunate enough to be young, I had to live according to someone else’s rules. Even now, aged 39, I never take for granted that I can do what I want to do most of the time – it’s something I appreciate every day, every time I make even the smallest decision.

A big thank you to Sophie for such great answers!

I especially love that her favourite authors are Val McDermid and Tana French (who are two of mine) and I HAVE to get myself a copy of that book called Before I Go To Sleep – how great does that sound? And I cannot WAIT for that TV series. Anyone else plan on watching that? Finally, although there are so many places I would like to go back in time to, Sophie does offer a compelling argument about why it is better to stay firmly planted in the present (no shopping on Amazon is surely reason enough!)

Book Review: Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

The Blurb:

“It’s 1.15 a.m. Connie Bowskill should be asleep. Instead, she’s logging on to a property website in search of a particular house: 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge. She knows it’s for sale; she saw the estate agent’s board in the front garden less than six hours ago.

Soon Connie is clicking on the ‘Virtual Tour’ button, keen to see the inside of 11 Bentley Grove and put her mind at rest once and for all. She finds herself looking at a scene from a nightmare: in the living room, in the middle of the carpet, there’s a woman lying face down in a huge pool of blood. In shock, Connie wakes her husband Kit. But when Kit sits down at the computer to take a look, he sees no dead body, only a pristine beige carpet in a perfectly ordinary room . . .”
 
 
 
 

 

(source: Amazon.co.uk)

 

What I thought:

Imagine you log on to a house-for-sale website in the middle of the night and while perusing the virtual tour of a lounge, there infront of her appears a woman lying face down in a huge pool of her own blood. What would you do? Especially if by the time you have woken your sleeping husband and dragged him to the computer screen the image has disappeared and your husband doesn’t believe you. Are you going mad or is there something more sinister at work?

I was hooked on this book within 5 minutes of picking it up. In fact I have to credit this book as being the one that officially got me out of my reading drought that has plagued me since Christmas. Lasting Damage is the 6th in a series of books set in the Culver Valley and with the same department of Police, including Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, although they can be read as stand-alones too (I certainly haven’t read them in order; in fact I still haven’t read all of them which is great for me as I have them to look forward to!)

The great thing about Lasting Damange, as in the others in the series, is the page-turningness (is that even a word?) of them. Once you start, you can’t stop. Every chapter ends at a place where you just can’t put it down. From the opening pages, when Connie Bowskill makes her fateful discovery, through to the final chapter, the reader is taken on a nail-biting ride, where at every corner there is something new thrown into the mix to make you doubt your own theories and re-assess everything you think you know so far.

If you haven’t read any of Sophie’s books yet, what are you waiting for? If you have then you’ll know you’re in for a treat with this latest offering and you won’t be disappointed.

I am thrilled to report that I will be posting my interview with Sophie Hannah here this week too. How does she come up with her plots? Who are her favourtie authors? And some exciting news about a TV series too….

 

 (Source: I bought my copy of this book myself)

 

  Have you read any Sophie Hannah books? Which are your favourites?

 

Book Review: A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

The Blurb:

“Fliss Benson is a TV producer struggling to deal with a personal tragedy in her own life. She receives at work an anonymous card which consists of 16 numbers arranged in four rows of four. These numbers mean absolutely nothing to her. At the same time, she is handed a particularly unwelcome assignment: she has to work on a documentary about cot death and three mothers accused (wrongly, it seems) of murder: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines. The controversial Dr Judith Duffy, who was responsible for the arraignment of the women after the death of their children, is now under investigation for misconduct, and the women have been set free. Fliss Benson’s reluctance to work on the film springs from a particularly personal issue — involving both cot death and the suicide of someone very close to her.”

(source: Amazon)

 

What I thought:

The strength of this book, for me, was the subject matter. I love a good pyschological thriller anyway but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by cot deaths and cases involving the deaths of babies which are at the centre of this book. It’s topical, relevant and current. And it made me think and ask myself questions that I had perhaps not asked myself before – A Room Swept White is a very clever book that looks at this whole issue without taking sides.

The story is told in both first person (from the view point of Fliss Benson, a TV producer who is pretty low down the pecking order) and also the third person so the reader is privvy to all the goings on in the case. The book starts with the murder of Helen Yardley who was aquitted a few years ago of killing her two babies and spent 9 years in jail for their murder. She teamed up with a TV producer / Journalist called Laurie Natriss and together they formed JIPAC (Justice for Innocent Parents and Carers) and subsequently set about securing the releases of other women who had also been convicted of killing their own babies or those in their care. The morning after Helen’s murder, Fliss Benson is suddenly promoted and asked to carry on making the documentary about the released women, and Laurie Natrass leaves the company. That same morning Fliss received in the post a small white card with 16 numbers on it, which means nothing to her until she finds out that Helen has the same card left on her body by the murderer. What follows is a quest to not only find Helen Yardley’s killer before he strikes again but also to get to the truth about whether she did or didn’t kill her two boys.

What let this book down for me were most of the characters. I understand that it’s a plot driven book rather than character driven (which is why I love thrillers as they’re fast paced and you want to know what’s going on rather than what a character is wearing) but even so, I didn’t actually like most of them. Fliss, the first person protagonist, was made out to be incompetent and ditzy and I could never fathom her reason for witholding some evidence from the police. I had no mental image of her and she felt very one-dimensional, as did some of the other big characters. There was no-one at all in the book whom I actually routed for.

What I did like about the book, however, was the whole issue around the enormity of responsibilty in these cases and just how easily the media can make us believe one thing and then another. All throughout the book I though I believed one thing and then realised that I actually had made a decision on very few facts. Once other facts came to light I was swayed again (in fact several times). Either I am incredibly gulliable or the media is way more powerful than even I imagined. The whole issue around medical witnesses in legal cases was fascinating and certainly an eye-opener (and you may end up thinking differently by the end of the book than you did at the start).

To conclude, I really enjoyed this book. Despite the rather wooden characters and some ill-placed humour (Fliss’s comedic inner monologue felt a little uncomfortable to read sometimes as it didn’t fit with the overall tone of the book), the actual plot and subject matter was fascinating, surprising and gripping.

 

I would recommend this book. Have you read it or any of Sophie’s other books?

 

There is a great interview with Sophie Hannah over on Simon’s blog at Savidge Reads which I recommend you check out.