Fliss Benson is a TV producer struggling to deal with a personal tragedy in her own life. She receives at work an anonymous card which consists of 16 numbers arranged in four rows of four. These numbers mean absolutely nothing to her. At the same time, she is handed a particularly unwelcome assignment: she has to work on a documentary about cot death and three mothers accused (wrongly, it seems) of murder: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines. The controversial Dr Judith Duffy, who was responsible for the arraignment of the women after the death of their children, is now under investigation for misconduct, and the women have been set free. Fliss Benson’s reluctance to work on the film springs from a particularly personal issue -- involving both cot death and the suicide of someone very close to her.
This is the arresting premise of Sophie Hannah’s A Room Swept White, and it's further proof (if proof were needed) that since her remarkable debut with Little Face, Hannah seems almost unable to put a foot wrong in the arena of the psychological thriller. The scenario here darkens when one of the three women, Helen Yardley, is found dead at her home. On the body is a card with the same layout of numbers arranged in four rows of four that Fliss Benson had been sent. She is soon faced with both intimidating moral dilemmas and physical danger. Par for the course, in fact, for a Sophie Hannah heroine. Apart from the sheer storytelling skill which is the sine qua non of Hannah's work, one of the most impressive aspects of her books is a subtlety with which she is able to address a variety of moral arguments -- such as the massively divisive issue of cot death in this book. In these areas, the tabloid press is always looking for villains, be they child-killing mothers or heartless social workers. Hannah is well aware that such moral issues are never clear cut, and the fact that she is able to address such subtleties in the context of a page-turning thriller is a mark of her skills. --Barry Forshaw
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Enthrallingly complex . . . A multi-stranded narrative that grips'
(The Sunday Times
'Intriguing, unnerving and engrossing . . . the most adept of psychological thrillers, in which - as with Hannah's other novels - the psychosis lying just below the surface of the human personality is exposed . . . A remarkable novel, and an adventure to read . . . Undoubtedly a first-class whodunit that will keep you reading long into the night.'
'Sophie Hannah has quickly established herself as a doyenne of the 'home horror' school of psychological tension, taking domestic situations and wringing from them dark, gothic thrills . . . Combining probability theory, poetry and murder, this is a densely plotted suspenser with a coded puzzle that would grace a Golden Age mystery.'
'A perplexing thriller with intrigue and infanticide . . . It's a given that nothing will be as it seems in the latest psychological thriller from Sophie Hannah, who marries complex plots with crisp, conversational prose'
'As Hannah sees it things are rarely clear cut and it is this moral ambivalence that makes her fiction so provocative'
'Hannah takes domestic scenarios, adds disquieting touches and turns up the suspense until you're checking under the bed for murders . . . it's this real-life research that helps make it so convincing - and so unsettling'
'Hannah is a master of intense psychological thrillers . . . Full of twists and turns, and terrifying, too' ****
'When it comes to ingenious plots that twist and turn like a fairground rollercoaster few writers can match Sophie Hannah. Hannah's complex and beautifully written tale kept me guessing right till the very last page.'
'A convincing narrative of miscarried justice and individual trauma . . . Hannah produces an enthrallingly complex plot whose serious themes are never undercut by her knack for comedy'