Title: Lasting Damage
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback: 438 pages
Publication Date: 17/02/2011
I know that buying a new house is supposed to be a scary and life-changing experience, but I didn’t realise that it could be quite so … deadly! But, this being a Sophie Hannah psychological thriller, I suppose that one should always expect the unexpected.
So when, in the opening pages, Connie Bowskill decides to log on to a property website late one night, the reader knows instinctively that nothing good will come of it. Sure enough, whilst viewing the virtual tour for 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge, Connie is shocked to see the corpse of a woman lying in a pool of blood in the living room. But when she wakes her husband, Kit, and shows him the video a few minutes later, the body and blood have disappeared and the carpet is pristine [someone must have used Cilit Bang. Yes, it even cleans carpets!].
Kit doesn’t believe Connie and I have to say that I was also rather suspicious of her and began to wonder quite how unreliable Connie might be as a narrator. And as the plot unfolds, Connie’s actions become increasingly strange and difficult to understand, heightening the feeling that she is not to be trusted. Did she really see the corpse? Is she nothing more than an attention-seeker? Or a pathological liar? Why is she so interested in 11 Bentley Grove? And why does she think that Kit may be involved in the ‘murder’?
Sophie Hannah is an author adept at creating twisting, suspense-filled psychological thrillers [this is Hannah’s sixth – all of them set around Culver Valley and featuring detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Whitehouse], and Lasting Damage is no exception. The twists just keep on coming and you are really kept on your toes as a reader – to the extent that, at certain points, I found myself being forced to accept that there was no way of predicting what was going to happen next. And, not for the first time whilst reading a Sophie Hannah novel, I found myself completely unable to predict the outcome at the book’s climax [which, as a reader of huge quantities of crime fiction, is actually manna from heaven. I like to be surprised and it doesn’t happen often enough!].
And, whilst the central concept around which the book revolves – the disappearing corpse – may seem fairly unlikely and far-fetched when you think about it logically, it is such an intriguing premise that I was willing to overlook its slight implausibility. Elegantly written and expertly woven together, as you would expect from Hannah, Lasting Damage is a gripping, convoluted, edge-of-your-seat crime thriller that will keep you guessing right up until its final pages.