A Room Swept White (Culver Valley Crime) Hardcover – 18 Mar 2010
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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
When it comes to ingenious plots that twist and turn like a fairground rollercoaster few writers can match Sophie Hannah. (Daily Express)
This book's triumph is that it is not just a perfectly executed psychological thriller, but a pertinent meditation on society itself. (Guardian)
A remarkable novel, and an adventure to read . . . a first-class whodunnit that will keep you reading long into the night. (Scotsman)
Hannah is a master of intense psychological thrillers. (Heat)
'This book is an uncomfortable read because the subject of mothers wrongly convicted of killing their babies and being consequently imprisoned is so painful. The idea of a baby's death; the idea of a mother being accused of bringing about a tragedy that she can hardly survive; the idea of social workers damned if they do remove a baby and damned if they don't; and the sweeping statements with which a self-styled expert can ruin someone else's life - all these scenarios, sadly familiar from contemporary news stories, really hurt to think about.' (
'Enthrallingly complex . . . A multi-stranded narrative that grips' (The Sunday Times)
'Intriguing, unnerving and engrossing . . . Hannah has timing down to an art. What she has created in A ROOM SWEPT WHITE is more than a murder mystery. It is 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.' (Scotsman)
'Strongly characterised . . . provocative' (Barry Forshaw, Daily Express)
'Sophie Hannah has been rightly praised for intricate and accomplished psychological thrillers which dissect the dark side of human relationships, and her fifth novel, A ROOM SWEPT WHITE, covers obsession, manipulation, meltdown and all points in between.' (Guardian)
'Just when I thought she couldn't get any better, Sophie Hannah has done it again, with her fifth novel . . . This thriller is full of twists and turns, and, once again, it's impossible to guess how it will end . . . No wonder her novels are being adapted for a Prime Suspect style TV series later this year! 9/10' (Peterborough Evening Telegraph)
'Classic Hannah, with genuinely thought-provoking issues and thoroughly believable characters fleshing out a plot of satisfying complexity . . . It's twists like these that tighten the tension running through Hannah's novels and help make her latest mystery so rewarding' (Yorkshire Post)
'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.' (Financial Times)
'Sophie Hannah has quite quickly built a reputation as a superb writer of the psychological thriller built around domestic situations. And deservedly so. Her novels transcend the crime genre through the quality of the writing and the exploration of themes relevant to all our lives - jealously, love, justice and retribution. Hannah is also a poet, and it shows. Elegant, bright phrases gleam like gold thread through the tapestry of the novels, making them a pleasure to read.' (Booktopia, Australia)
'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' (Marie Claire)
'A fingernail-shredding plot' (Candis)
'As Hannah sees it things are rarely clear cut and it is this moral ambivalence that makes her fiction so provocative' (Daily Express)
'She writes beautifully, the narrative races along with the reader breathlessly trying to catch up and the subject matter is fascinating. This is her fifth psychological suspense thriller and, like the others, it's destined for bestsellerdom.' (Carla McKay, Daily Mail)
'Hannah's crisp, expressive prose marches you briskly between sharp details and confident characterisations, building an ever more complex, rewarding plot as it goes. Tension drips from every page, but not at the expense of intellectual provocation' (City AM)
'Compelling . . . knife edge tension right through to the unsettling finale' (Take a Break)
'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' (Independent)
'Hannah is a master of intense psychological thrillers . . . Full of twists and turns, and terrifying, too' **** (Heat)
'A ROOM SWEPT WHITE is a compelling read. I thoroughly recommend it, but be warned: from the moment you turn the first page, you'll be incapable of doing anyting - eating, sleeping, working - until you reach the end.' (Cambridgeshire Journal)
'Brilliantly pacy and penetrating psychological thriller' **** (Daily Mirror)
'A cleverly plotted psychological thriller by an author with a growing reputation for intelligent, creepy, crime novels.' (Choice)
'Sophie Hannah has a poet's eye, and she creates characters and settings of closely observed complexity in her psychological mysteries.' (Daily Telegraph)
'Taut, ingenious' (Sunday Express)
'Guaranteed to chill on even the hottest day.' (Independent)
'The title really sells it. It's creepy stuff, which Sophie's things often are, quite necessarily.' (Tana French, Irish Times)
'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.' (Daily Express)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've enjoyed many of Sophie Hannah's books in this crime series, especially the first three. This one is droning on and on. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Grahameducato
I enjoyed the first three of the Culver Valley series (Little Face, Hurting Distance and The Point of Rescue) and was less impressed with number four, The Other Half Lives. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Nicola in South Yorkshire
I have read all the previous books in this series and enjoyed them but this one is really not in the same league. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Bexy Bee
I do have to disagree with other reviewers. This is the first Sophie Hannah book I read - out of sync of the rest of the series I am aware, but this book encouraged me to read the... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Lily Lit