Hannah’s tireless cops are on the case again in her newest procedural novel. Strangely enough, its publication rather coincides with the real life of Casey Anthony. Never one to shy away from difficult subject matter, Hannah, through her characters, explores the emotional and societal impacts of such an unthinkable crime.
The main action surrounds the making of an investigative journalism documentary about mothers who had been convicted of killing their children – only to be acquitted with later evidence. Its executive producer and mastermind quits his job at the BBC rather abruptly, leaving heroine Fliss Benson with the reins. As she begins to sift through the files and interviews, she uncovers questionable statements, missing evidence and doubtful witnesses. All the while, MPS is on the case, tracking down the murderer of one of these acquitted women. The two narratives run like the two hypothetical trains at 60 and 70 mph, destined to collide in St. Louis. Or in this case Notting Hill.
|The original BBC building, Regents Street, London.|
Author Sophie Hannah’s strength, as always, lies in her dialogue. It truly informs her entire story. Her characters all have different voices and thought patterns. Their vocabulary and speech patterns are unique. I couldn’t tell you what Fliss Benson looks like, or even if Hannah gives a physical description, but I could tell you what she would say, think, or do in any situation. Each of the police officers varies. They range from lovesick to crass to solitary. It is these characters that engross the reader. The “whodunit” aspect becomes secondary. It is hardly a surprise then that Hannah’s stories has been adapted into a mini-series called “Case Sensitive” on Britain’s ITV1. I can only hope it will run in America as well.
This storyline is nowhere near as graphic as The Truth-Teller’s Lie, but the subject matter is quite unsettling. Its immediacy is part of what makes it so gripping, but readers should be warned that it pulls no punches. Readers should also know that Hannah does her utmost to explore every possible point-of-view. She tries to shed light on the grey areas of guilt and innocence, public scrutiny and private grief. Only the murderer is a villain (and even that character is somewhat sympathetic). Everyone else is portrayed as conflicted, confused and struggling — imperfect. It reminds the reader that a trial can prove only a sliver of truth, while the rest is unseen.
Many thanks to the folks at Penguin for the review copy.
ISBN 9781101543733 | 480 pages | 30 Aug 2011 | Penguin | 18 – AND UP
Visit Sophie Hannah’s site.