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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Book Review: Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

There are only two authors whose books I would rush out to buy on the day of release. Generally, I can starve myself until the paperback comes out but not with Sarah Waters or Sophie Hannah. I got very excited when I saw Hannah's latest was coming out, so much so that I pre-ordered a book for the first time in my life. I wasn't disappointed.

Lasting Damage springboards from this premise: a woman looking at a virtual tour on a property website sees a dead woman on the screen. When her husband comes to look he doesn't see what she saw. There begins a tale that races towards the finishing point described in the short prologue.

The sensation I always get when reading Hannah's books is that I'm running along behind a bus trying desperately to jump on. Like John Truitt in Meet Me In St. Louis, if you don't mind the analogy. Except that each time I get reasonably close to leaping on the bus swerves away. That's what following Hannah's plots feels like. After reading five previous books I feel I should have a good idea of where things are going, or at least be able to decipher probables, but I find it impossible. Hannah is a master at leading you in one direction, only for you to realise later on that she led you that way for a reason, though not the one you thought at the time. Her first-person narration from Connie's perspective certainly helps this effect. Connie Bowskill is another of those characters who you want to trust and like but she's a bit on the unstable side. Hannah takes the unreliable narrator, as she does in all her books, and utilises it to its full potential.

For fans of the series there are plenty of serial elements in the police chapters to interest, which doesn't alienate new readers. Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse are as dysfunctional a couple as ever and, although they begin the novel on their honeymoon, it's almost inevitable that they don't stay there. Further complications are thrown into the mix with the brief return of a face from an earlier book and a subplot involving Charlie's sister, Olivia, which causes all sorts of problems. If I've one complaint it's that this subplot dominates the early portion of the book then peters off. I understand why - at that point the main storyline is so complex that nothing should distract from it - but it was still something I noticed. However, I don't doubt that it'll definitely come up in the next book.

Are there parts of Lasting Damage I didn't like? To be honest, no. Hannah's got such a grip on her police characters (and an amazing knack for portraying unbalanced people) that characterisation wasn't a problem. The resolution to the main storyline leaves you thinking back over the entire book. Now, that's not a bad thing, but it does mean at some point I'm going to have to satisfy my urge to read all six books again! I'm always torn between reading slowly and absorbing everything or galloping ahead in order to reach the conclusion. Re-reading is a good option to add to those.

Again, I would recommend that anyone unfamiliar with Hannah starts at the beginning of her fantastic series, but the book is accessible to those who don't. I started at book four and worked my way backwards and I'm okay!

A previous review of Hurting Distance, the second book in series, can be found here.

I've blogged about reading the series backwards here.

Lasting Damage is available to buy here.


Annie said...

I enjoyed this but I do have a reservation which I will blog about myself over the weekend. However, I still agree that Hannah is more than worth the read and also that you are best going back to the beginning if you haven't read her before.

CharmedLassie said...

I'll be interested to read your views. I just rectified the unfathomable fact that I wasn't following your blog. Terrible of me.