Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton RRP: £12.99

Released: 17th February 2011

Reviewer: Helen Bettinson


After a career in TV production Helen Bettinson recently ditched a long commute around the M25 in order to concentrate on reading, and perhaps even writing, crime fiction.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we, staring wistfully at the for-sale board outside the house we’ll never afford? Some, like Connie Bowskill, are even driven to look up the property online, victims of their own daydreams. But in Connie’s case it all goes horribly wrong.

Clicking on the Virtual Tour button of 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge, she sees not the perfect living room she had imagined, but a female corpse lying face down in a pool of blood. So begins Sophie Hannah’s latest rollercoaster crime novel, a foray into the less than golden lives of an outwardly successful and settled young couple.

Intercut with scenes from the Bowskills’ disintegrating marriage Hannah weaves snatches of the honeymoon of enigmatic policeman, Simon Waterhouse. Connie needs Simon to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge house, believing that he can prove that her husband Kit is either implicated in the murder or entirely innocent of her accusations. The implausibility of the unfolding plot is masked by the author’s skill in drawing the reader into Connie’s increasingly troubled mind: we, like she, begin to worry for her sanity.

I confess that I, too, was drawn to Bentley Grove, for the road on which it is modelled is just around the corner from my own. The sense of place is nicely evoked, and the characters of Connie and her immediate family convincing. Hannah has a flair for both dialogue and internal monologue, from the mundane to the comic to the chilling. My only gripe is the twisted logic of the denouement, for even in Cambridge, where property prices remain unfeasibly high, we wouldn’t stoop to such depths in order to bag the perfect house, or the perfect life.






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