on 27 September 2013
I started my Sophie Hannah exploration with Point of Rescue (and loved it!) which inspired me to move on to the others (room swept white and little face). I gave it a bit of a rest after Little Face (which I didn't enjoy as much as the other two) but chose The Carrier before a recent holiday and thought I'd give it a go.
I started it twice and put it back down before sticking with it to the bitter end. My husband and I like to chat about how we're getting on with our current reads and I said The Carrier was giving me a bit of a headache (literally). I explained the storyline (which is basically about an annoying bloke called Tim with a dead wife) and that the theme was mainly 'Tim did it, no he didn't, yes Tim did it, did he, it was Tim, I don't think Tim did it, did he, he did, Tim did it, but it wasn't Tim, but Tim did it, did he, oh no he didn't, oh yes he did ...' and so on and so forth. That coupled with the Ministry-of-Silly-Names-Murder-Squad that Sophie favours was all a bit much for my brain to cope with.
I don't think the characters come across as the author intended either because I ended up feeling sorry for the wife! My word that poor woman had a lucky escape! The three main characters go on and on and on and on about how evil she is but it just left me feeling more and more sorry for her.
Tim and his 'I'll utter no more words than necessary' attitude got on my wick. I didn't find him attractive or appealing (unlike the women in this book who find him irresistible). He had no substance. He was just downright odd.
And, despite being told in the book about the 'significance' of The Carrier - I still have absolutely no idea what all that drivel meant. Nope. None. Nada. I consider myself of average intelligence (!) but that went straight over my head.
on 26 July 2014
Have read several of Sophie Hannah's books now - although I'm not sure why, as they seem to get worse. After 'Kind of Cruel' I decided that this ludicrous premise could never be topped but.... well done, Ms Hannah, you managed it! I found the book extremely hard going at the beginning; the character of Gaby patronising, condescending and intensely dislikeable and the narrative boring. It is not intriguing, merely confusing. I have to confess to skipping the middle 300 or so pages (life is too short!) and just reading the conclusion. So glad I did this - I know now 'whodunnit' without wasting several more hours on this rubbish. Hannah's 'twists' are not clever, merely incredibly unbelievable. I will not be reading any more of her work - even if it is free as this one was for me.
The plot winds its way around three central characters. Tim, his dead wife Francine and the 'real love of his life' Gaby who Tim hasn't seen for a long time. The wife died in mysterious circumstances, perhaps as a result of a mercy killing, and was ill for a long time before her death. Whodunnit?. When Gaby finds out Tim has admitted to murdering his wife she decides to return home and prove his innocence. I was never quite sure why. There was a lot of 'not sure why' in the book because things happen without any real explanation.
The basis for the novel is simple and there's nothing wrong with simplicity but; if you make something simple you have nowhere to hide and you also have to make it perfect. 'The Carrier' isn't perfect. The plot is reasonable enough but creaks and crumbles under the weight of the awful characters it's being forced to support.
We soon learn that the recently departed Francine was a nasty piece of work, that everyone loves Tim, especially Gaby, and they'd all do 'anything' for him. The problem is that Francine had every right to be nasty, she'd had a stroke, and anyone on the wrong side of her had the option of leaving the room!. More of an option at times than she had. Francine wasn't actually that bad. Would have made a lot more sense if she had murdered the lukewarm Tim.
If you haven't read all of these books in the proper series you really won't get to know the history of the characters and you'll feel as confused as me. There is no attempt at any explanation as to back history or motivation but there's an awful lot of cliche and far reaches. As for the ending; you'll probably guess way before you reach it and even if you don't there are no real surprises.
This is the 8th novel in the Sophie Hanna 'Culver Valley' series and maybe it's a series that has gone on too long.
on 21 October 2013
As in most of Sophie Hannah's books, characters don't really behave as the might in real life. But it's a story and not meant to be real life, so putting that aside it is a 'good read'. I like the humour, especially in Charlie, who could be my best friend! One or two of the characters are a little annoying though, I'm not sure if they're meant to be. But the plot keeps you guessing almost to the end, I wanted to keep reading, and get there as soon as possible. I definitely would recommend it but think the earlier books need to be read first, otherwise, with no understanding of Charlie and Simon's relationship, the dynamics in the story could be a little confusing.
on 26 December 2013
Oh for heaven's sake, who let this book be published in its current form? I don't know what page I'm up to, although my Kindle tells me that I'm 42% of the way through it, which is about 57% short of where I'd like to be: the other 1% is the bit where it's all finally explained, but I just don't have the interest or the stamina to continue to find out, so if someone would like to enlighten me (who'd have thought that good old Prof. Google would let me down in the search for a spoiler?), I'd be grateful.
What was Ms Hannah thinking? Or not? This is a convoluted mish mash, populated by unconvincing and/or unpleasant characters; there are so many carrots being dangled that even a starving donkey would turn away in disgust and the occasional flash of good writing is so swamped by endless longeurs of dullness that I've just given up. So, please, someone tell me: why did boring old Tim marry Francine, although even stroke-ridden, paralysed and then dead, she sounded a whole lot more interesting than he? Why are Dan and Kerry his helplessly devoted acolytes? And, of course, who killed Francine and why? Although if I'd been her I would have been grateful for what, in my judgement, was a mercy killing that relieved her of the necessity of having anything more to do with all those drippy deadheads. Lucky her, too, that, being dead, she didn't have to make the acquaintance of the plods who, almost to a person, are a gang of self conscious, posturing dullards. Were I to read much more of this, I think I'd end up administering the Tontine therapy to myself.
Have just finished The Carrier and am so relieved to have made it through to the end of what was for me, an overly complex, frustrating and tedious read. I haven't particularly enjoyed the author's last few books and after wading my way through this long and boring one, I don't think I will be looking to read any more Sophie Hannah books. Loved SH's earlier works, they were full of suspense and tension resulting in very absorbing, gripping read - sadly I can't say the same for the more recent novels, they are most disappointing and just not up to par.
on 12 July 2014
Having read most of Sophie Hannah's books already and having enjoyed them, I felt very confident I was going to enjoy The Carrier. Sadly I was mistaken. I finished the book feeling like I'd just wasted my time. The characters and plot were not believeable and I just found 'Tim'- who most of the characters seemed to find irresistible, pathetic and frustrating. I may have just missed it but I can't remember ever finding what the relevance of the 'The Carrier' is.
on 17 September 2014
I had read "Little Face" and "Point of Rescue" both of which I enjoyed - but this is disappointing - Tim is so weird that it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to love him, certainly not to the extent that Gaby does - she appears to be a high-flier with intelligence and personality whereas he is just weird...I did start the book three times and gave up, but left with nothing to read one hot Sunday I persevered - the ending is very disappointing indeed - as is the explanation for Tim's silly dream-
Obviously these books are a series, I haven't read them in sequence, I haven't read the one where Charlie gets married, perhaps it should be made plainer on the covers where each title lies in the chronology? I haven't give up on Sophie yet - but another written in this style may change my mind!
on 23 October 2013
This was our book club choice for September and another new author for me. The blurb sounded promising so we were all keen to get reading.
Each chapter is dated and with that brings a different person's view, I'm usually a fan of books set out like this but I don't think it really added anything.
I didn't really get the relationship between Tim, Kerry and Dan and why they were so devoted to him, it was all a bit odd. Oh...and the letters to Francine which are interspersed are actually really cruel which doesn't help you like the Kerry and Dan any more (although some were quite amusing but I don't think I was supposed to be smirking as I was reading them).
Unfortunately I really struggled with this book, I don't like giving up on books so persevered but it was hard work. I didn't engage with any of the characters and found them to be totally unbelievable; so didn't really care enough to be interested in what happened to them and towards the end I really didn't care if Tim had killed his wife or not. In fact, I hoped he had to give the book more of a twist.
This book is billed as a psychological thriller but I didn't feel that at all, it actually feels quite ploddish.
I believe this novel is part of a series of books and therefore is probably better aimed at fans of this series rather than as a standalone. I really dislike giving a negative review but this really left me feeling cold and I'm afraid this book doesn't inspire to read any more of Sophie Hannah's books. Sorry!
I really enjoyed the early volumes of Sophie Hannah's 'Culver Valley Series', but by Volume 6 was beginning to feel she was rolling them out rather fast, so that they were getting careless, and a bit gratuitously nasty. I enjoyed Volume 7 despite its rather improbable plot, but if this, Volume 8, is anything to go by then Hannah should really take a bit of time away from the series.
Hannah is intrinsically an intelligent and skilful writer, so the book is not altogether 'bad', and features some interesting ideas. The plot hinges around the death of Francine, a rather bad-tempered young woman who suffered a stroke at the age of 38 that left her brain-damaged, paralysed and unable to speak. Her husband Tim, and his best friends, couple Kerry and Dan, cared for her for some 18 months, until one day she was found smothered. Tim claims he did it as a mercy killing, but neither DC Simon Waterhouse nor Tim's ex-lover Gabby believe that he did any such thing. So who did? And what does Lauren, Francine's former care assistant, know that she's not telling? Meanwhile Simon and Charlie begin to realize that they need to sort out their marriage, Olivia's still dating two men (one, Chris Gibbs, seceretly) and Sam Kombothekra begins to have enough of Simon, Giles Proust the Inspector.
There's a lot of promise here, particularly in the crime, which could have opened up an important debate on euthanasia and dysfunctional marriages. Unfortunately, Hannah didn't really touch on euthanasia apart from to use Simon and Charlie (who I believe we are meant to feel are generally right) to condemn it. And the whole Tim-Francine marriage was totally implausible - if Francine was so loathsome, and had nothing in common with Tim, then why on earth did he marry her in the first place? Surely his own unhappy childhood couldn't have deprived him of all reason? There were a few needless silly subplots and plot dead-ends, such as Lauren's marriage to a man who looked conveniently like her father and was the same age (so the two got mixed up by the singularly inefficient Culver constabulary), a murder that seemed to happen out of nowhere, and Lauren's decision to make a trip to Germany when she could have easily confronted the person she wanted to talk to at home in the Culver valley. But, bearing in mind Hannah's good writing style, I could have lived with this if the characters weren't all so loathsome. Gabby - one of Hannah's feisty narrator-heroines - was vile, a sort of Margaret Thatcher of the research science world, whose life appeared to be dominated by cold greed (when she stated how she felt everyone ought to be taxed the same no matter what they earned, I threw the book across the room). Reading her sections was a bit like being in a room with Ayn Rand for some hours - annoying beyond belief. Her consort, Tim - and what exactly did these two have in common? - was a self-righteous prig, who seemed to deliberately put himself in situations where he could appear noble and be miserable. He managed to be a self-torturer and unbearably pleased with himself at the same time (not easy). Lauren and her family were parodies of the working class, and the dialogue between her and Gabby in the German hotel room (particularly Gabby's insults) was completely unbelievable. Kerry and Dan, the dysfunctional husband-and-wife who made a fortune via Gabby's inventions, were potentially more interesting, but they too began to move towards parody quite early in the book, and faded out of the novel towards the end.
The Culver Valley lot don't come out so well from this either. Hannah clearly can't work out what to do with the Chris Gibbs/Olivia relationship, which has been at the same stage for ages - and if Olivia's fiance was a private detective, wouldn't he have figured out something was wrong by now? The subplot about Giles Proust's evil home life and daughter 'Regan' felt unbelievable, relying on us forgetting the good qualities of Proust and his wife Lizzie that we've read about in earlier books, unless we accept that they've had a personality transformation. This also fizzled out about halfway through, and wasn't woven into the main story. I've no idea what we're meant to think's happening in the Simon and Charlie marriage: at the end of 'Kind of Cruel' they appeared to be ready to get help, but now they seem to just be drifting on, though at least declaring affection for each other a bit more. Simon is still intriguing, but Hannah doesn't really examine either his or Charlie's psyches much in this book. And I didn't believe that Sam would have let Proust manipulate him so much.
For the first time with a Culver Valley book (apart perhaps from 'Lasting Damage') I found the narrative dragged more and more. I didn't really care in the end who killed the unlikeable Francine, whether Tim would get out of jail and whether he and Gabby would reunite - or about Proust's familial crises and Simon's barely-explored inner turmoil. By the end I was just reading on to see what happened, and even that wasn't all that exciting.
Sophie Hannah's a very talented writer, but either she needs to spend more time working out plots for the Culver Valley series, or it (like 'Downton Abbey') has simply run out of steam. I see she's now leaving bigger gaps between books, and writing other novels in between Culver installments, so hopefully the series - which showed such potential at the start - will get back on its feet soon.
Two and a half stars.