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2.9 out of 5 stars
Little Face: Culver Valley Crime Book 1 (Flipback)
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2011
When TV producer Fliss Benson receives an anonymous card at work containing sixteen numbers arranged in rows of four, it means absolutely nothing to her and she has no idea what to make of it.

On the same day, Fliss discovers she is going to be working on a documentary about miscarriages of justice involving mothers wrongly accused of murder, when their babies suffered cot-death. The documentary is to focus on three women: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines who are all now free, whilst Dr Judith Duffy who was involved in child protection, is under investigation for misconduct after trying her best to ensure all three women would be sent to prison for life.

For reasons only known to herself, this is not a project Fliss wants to be working on, but then Helen Yardley is found dead at her home and in her pocket is a card just like the one Fliss received, with sixteen numbers on it arranged in rows of four...

A couple of years ago I read one of Sophie Hannah's first novels, 'Little Face' and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then equally enjoyed subsequent novels 'Hurting Distance' and 'The Point of Rescue' and thought I had found a new author to enjoy. However, despite looking forward to reading the next novel from Sophie Hannah, entitled 'The Other Half Lives' I found I was left disappointed, as it was very poor compared to the previous novels.
So when 'A Room Swept White' was published last year, I hoped that this book would see a return to form for Sophie Hannah, but unfortunately I found that once again I did not enjoy the book.

Although the blurb on the back of the book sounded interesting and something I would enjoy, I found that right from the first page, 'A Room Swept White' was a very difficult book to get into.

The story is told in both first person from the view point of Fliss Benson and also the third person and right away I found the ditzy character of Fliss Benson, irritating. She also came across as incompetent and I found myself unable to believe in her character and given the serious and upsetting nature of the plot, it just didn't seem to fit. Even her 'secret' was a kept secret for too long in my opinion.
Fliss also is in love with her boss Laurie, but his character refuses to allow himself to be endearing to either her or the reader. I couldn't understand at all why Fliss was interested in him and it didn't make for interesting reading.
In fact, the characters in the book were really a big let down. Even the reappearance of "Snowman" Proust and detective couple Charlie and Simon from Spilling police station who have all featured previously in Hannah's other books could not save this story and their characters were far less interesting than they were previously.
Incidentally, this novel can be read without knowing about these characters in the previous books, as anything the reader needs to know is explained. And that was another let-down for me as I thought there was far too much needless information about Charlie and Simon's relationship and background included in this book, which prevented any suspense or tension building as it moves along at a snails pace.

Several times I put this book down and had to force myself to pick it up again and finish it. It was only the fact that I have enjoyed some of Hannah's previous books so much that I stuck with this one. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn't.
I also felt that the initial part of the book which intrigued me, in which various people were sent cards with numbers written on them, was not convincing. In addition, various aspects of the plot are simply left in the air. I could never fathom out why for example, the reason Fliss witheld some evidence from the police.
Nothing much seemed to be happening for long periods of the book and I simply couldn't believe in any of the characters, which was tiring and disappointing.
It was a struggle to read this book to the end and it certainly lacks the sharpness and readability of the author's earlier books.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2011
I found this book almost unreadable, and in particular the characters of Ray and Angus Hines to be ridiculous.
The narrative meanders on, with police you would never want to investigate a crime you had suffered from, the murders, or rather the explanation we are supposed to credit, make little sense.
The behaviour of the policeman Proust would, one hopes, not be tolerated by his fellow officers.
The journalist Natrass is another absurd character.
Do not read this book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2010
I keep giving Sophie Hannah the benefit of the doubt, but yet again, I was left disappointed. I had taken this book on holiday, and so I had more time than usual to settle down to a good read, and to start off with it felt like a real page-turner. But the confusion of the second half of the book left me so confused, that although I stuck with it to the end, I felt completely let down. I won't mention any of the detail, as I wouldn't want to spoil it for those who do enjoy it, but there were so many gaping holes and unexplained twists that I was really only stumbling through the final chapters. Sorry Sophie, it looks like I have a downer on you - not so, I enjoyed your first novels, but this seems like a great story idea allowed to run amok.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2013
Can a novel work in the first person present tense? It doesn't work in this one and is incredibly annoying. We are treated to a recitation in real time of the narrator's actions: I am climbing out of a window; I am peering in the room; I can see... and so on. There is not one single character in the book who grabs your attention. The main narrator (climbing in and out of windows) is a sort of Bridget Jones clone: so ditzy I'm surprised she can dress herself in the morning let alone solve crime or make television programmes (her job). She is in love with a man who should have been put down at birth. The story is so incredibly confusing I almost felt like making notes to try and sort it all out - and not in a good way because the crime is so fascinating. We have a killer. We have murdered women. The resolution of the mystery is the most banal and ridiculous I've ever read in a novel.
I did actually finish this book because like some other reviewers on here I felt it might get better; the premise is quite a good one. This is just a very badly executed novel. The only good I can take from it is that there is hope for us all if this gets published.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2010
I was really looking forward to reading this book - I thought the storyline sounded really interesting and it started well. However, it soon went downhill. I didn't particularly like any of the characters and found some of the 'twists' hard to believe. I felt the story didn't really go anywhere and lots of characters were introduced and ended up being pretty pointless. The ending was also disappointing. This was the first Sophie Hannah book I have read and, unfortunately, it hasn't made me want to read any more of them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2014
I supect Sophie Hannah is getting a bit fed up with writing psychological thrilelrs but that's what her publisher wants so that's what she's writing. Did she have a huge floor plan of this book which she spilt coffee over and then just gave up and wrote gibberish about some of her characters because she was so heart broken at losing it? Or was she on vallium when she wrote it, doing it with half her mind elsewhere? I agree with the other reviewers who comment on the unbelievable characters. They are just not finished, lazily, hazily described with clunky unbelievable dialogue and jolting twists in the plot. There is a scene late in the book that I'll keep vague, so as not to spoil this if you do read it, where an important character is summarily bumped off with hardly a beat taken. The coppers don't make sense either. The young one who hates the older one (I read it a whle ago so have forgotten names but have been burning to say something for a few weeks) is obviously deeply damaged by something that makes him loathe his boss but we never find out why do we? Laurie Natrass just doesn't seem like a real person in any way, shape or form, and she seems to agree that he was embarassingly unlikely and he sort of disappears 2/3 of the way through the book. Scenes such as the one where the social worker takes the baby away because she thinks she is suffocating the baby are just badly drawn. She jumps her characters' persononal pronouns a lot, which works in Kind of Cruel but irritates in this book. And then in the end we never really find out if they did or didn't kill their babies. Having bought this from Oxfam it's now going in the bin as I only pass on books I would love others to read after me and this is not one of those.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2012
I really like Sophie Hannah's poetry - some of my favourite poems are written by her - but based on 'A Room Swept White', poetry is what she should stick to.

There is nothing specifically bad about this book - it's well written with an intriguing storyline - but the major fault I found was it just wasn't engaging enough. My first issue lies with the sheer volume of characters, some of whom felt surplus to requirements. Storylines are started and never wrapped up (most notably the relationship between DC Simon Waterhouse and his fiancee) and most of the characters, particularly Fliss Benson and Laurie Nattrass, are wholly unlikable. Fliss is scatter-brained to the point where you wonder how she functions on a daily basis, whilst Nattrass is just horrible. Obnoxious, childish, bullish - you name it and the chances are he displays it as a character trait somewhere along the line. And yet most people throughout the story seem to treat him like some sort of icon - someone to be worshipped for his 'genius'. Fliss has a misplaced affection for the man, which we know will never bear fruit, although she continues to follow him about like a lost puppy.

Finally, the story itself is quite predictable, once you get past the promising beginning. The introduction of one particular character was enough to raise my suspicions so much that when their role in the plot is revealed, I was left feeling flat rather than shocked or surprised. This is billed as a psychological thriller, but I failed to find the essence of either. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2011
I like the idea for the book. I find the subject matter of women wrongly accused of murdering their babies interesting and hooking. The book is definetely a page-turner as I stayed up till 3 o clock finishing it. I was hooked from the very beginning. But it was all for nothing since the ending is a complete disappointment. I do not see why the the person 'whodidit' actually did what they did to Helen. I think there is too much distraction about other meaningless relationships so I did not focus my attention on the important aspects. Sometimes I also had a feeling like I was reading some chick-lit rather than psychological thriller thanks to Fliss and her 13-year-old mentality...he loves me...he loves me not...oh please love me...or maybe not cause you're a jerk! I don't think all that chick-lit joking around was appropriate for such a serious subject...don't get me wrong, I love chick lit, just not where it is continuosly interchanged with court trials and murders.
This is my first book by Sophie Hannah, I have another one 'little face' on my bookshelf. I will give it a try despite my dissapointment with this one. And if 'little face' turns out to be pointless page-turning as well, I'll give that author a miss in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2010
Sophie Hannah's books usually follow a similar pattern;a fascinating and intriguing initial premise that draws the reader in for at least half the book..then a gradual let-down and a slightly disappointing resolution to the mystery. This one was no exception. They are always well-written,and I could never put one down unfinished,but there were too many unresolved threads to the story. And is anyone else tiring of the dreadful sexist banter between the lesser police characters? Presumably meant to be gritty and realistic,it is neither. Stop it,please!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2010
Having read and enjoyed many of her books this has got to be the biggest let down. The characters are unlikable with daft traits. The Snowman character is over described, yeah yeah we get the message he 'freezes' the room with his put downs. The joke is long over as described in many previous books. Yeah yeah we know Charlie and Simon can't 'get it on' and haven't for some time now. Could that not realistically be moved on now? Simon's hatred of the Snowman yeah we get the message. What angle are we meant to take on the truly wet Fliss? She is described like a heroine out a badly written for teenagers' novel. "Ooh I love him but he doesn't love me, does he even notice me, I stare at him all day," kind of narrative does nothing for me.

Oh yes, there's meant to be some page turning, gripping story amongst all of this. Well I'm sorry but the over characterisation of the characters gets in the way of what could be a great subject matter. We're so busy reading about Simon's red hot anger over the Snowman asking him to dinner there's no time to take in the story. I've got about 100 pages left to read and will endure it and be so relieved to be done with it. I don't think I even care how it ends. And I never want to encounter the blasted Snowman and his cronies again thanks!
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