Judith Cutler is the author of many short stories and some thirty novels. Her most recent is Ring of Guilt (Severn House) the latest in the series featuring antique dealers Griff Tripp and Lina Townend. Check out the other novels on www.judithcutler.com
It is a given that a Sophie Hannah psychological mystery is going to be outstanding. It will be gritty, pacy, complex, involve painful contemporary issues and brilliantly plotted.
A Room Swept White is no exception. The main viewpoint character, in a dense, multi-stranded narrative, is a young producer for an independent company making films for TV. Fliss Benson has been thrust unwillingly into taking responsibility for making a documentary on miscarriages of justice perpetrated on women alleged to have killed children in their care, largely the result of the work of now-disgraced doctor, Judith Duffy. She also finds herself part of a murder enquiry: one of the women to be featured in the programme is found dead, in her pocket a card with sixteen numbers on it. It is a card that Fliss is horribly familiar with, having received and destroyed one addressed to herself.
The crime is investigated by a police team for whom the word dysfunctional might have been invented, a bunch led by Proust, who according to another character is having trouble with his memory (get it?). Many of the characters have names – and even personalities – that Dickens would have applauded – Jaggard, Zailer, Keast, giving the novel a Gothic frisson, despite the absolute modernity of the theme. A mansion becomes the sinister backdrop to important action. A woman is murdered in full view of a reporter. The tension is racked up and up.
If I have a single gripe, it is that not one of the characters is sympathetic. Even the viewpoint character is so flaky you want to shake her into commonsense, and the happy end to her story perhaps edges to the trite. Or is it to Jane Eyre marrying Rochester?
Reader, do the sensible thing: buy the book, and find out for yourself. You won’t regret it.
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