I picked this up in paperback - an actual book! - on a campsite book exchange a month or so ago. Mainstream crime thrillers aren't my usual fare, but I was swayed by the three pages of positive review quotes in the front. I really must learn not to take any notice of these as I think, in fact, I read a different book!
Hurting Distance is OK. At four hundred pages, it is a bit too long for its story, but the convoluted plot is certainly unguessable too far before the end. The main protagonist, Naomi, gets to be both spoken about and to speak directly to the reader which is odd at first but does work as a device. Every so often, a chapter will be written in the first person, as Naomi talking to her talking to her beloved Robert. Otherwise the novel is written in third person and present time.
In common with most crime thrillers, there is a serial criminal on the loose, this time a rapist, although Hannah doesn't overdo the clock ticking scenario. Instead there is a huge tangle of personal relationships and characters involved in convenient coincidences - while discussing how they don't believe in coincidences. I did appreciate a comment about linking arrows on the police evidence wall having become just a blob - perhaps an observation of Hannah's plot plan?! The police behaviour is what actually ruined this book for me. The villain and victims are cleverly set up but then the police behave like their TV counterparts, not real police at all. Then so much of the novel's forward drive depends on their irrational actions and jumped-to conclusions that I got quite irritated by the end.
This is a high calibre thriller. Very well plotted and written. It involves disturbing subject matter involving rape but i felt the author handled the macabre content well and left the readers imagination for the real awful stuff unlike say, someone like Mo Hayder who might have gone one step further. The main character Naomi is an irritating victim who i never warmed to in spite of her traumatic ordeals and i found being apathetic to her somewhat of a chore. But I think this is because she is intended to be this way and it is credit to the author for writing her character so well. I gave this review 4 stars in stead of 5 as none of the characters are easy to warm to. They are somewhat robotic and all kind of merge into one persona in parts. The storyline is pacy and VERY well thought out and i did lose my weekend to it which is always a good sign of a good read but the characters are hard work. Its my first Sophie Hannah novel and i will definately be reading more. She is less brutal than Mo Hayder but darker than Gerritsen.
This follows what has become standard territory for Sophie Hannah: a twisty-turny modern gothic narrative built around women in jeopardy, sex, murder and shifting identities. The style and structure, too, duplicate that of her other books: a present-tense first-person narrative interspersed with a third person narrative following the police investigation.
The style and structure may have become formulaic but this is still a gripping book with shocks a-plenty, and I really don't want to say too much to avoid spoiling the plot for other readers.
Hannah's female characters can be a little over the top: they spend a lot of the time telling us how they refuse to be victims, and yet that's precisely their role in her books. But, despite that, her books can be utterly addictive. Unlike other reviewers I didn't like Little Face (as I felt Hannah `cheated') and much preferred this and The Other Half Lives. Chilling, disturbing and compulsive.
This is an interesting novel and my first by Sophie Hannah, which was given to me by a friend.
The female characters are well drawn and believable but she doesn't quite pull off the male characters. My biggest gripe is the central relationship between Naomi and Robert. We're told Naomi is a successful, intelligent, independent businesswoman, but are then expected to believe she'd be head over heels with Robert, a dull, predictable lorry driver, who admits he's too spineless to leave his wife and only sees Naomi for three hours a week in a grotty motorway hotel. He even folds his clothes before they have sex. It doesn't convince.
It's a brave move to make the main female character so disagreeable. I didn't like Naomi and found the opening chapter, narrated by her, to be stilted. Had I read it in a bookshop, I'd have put it back without buying. It warmed up as it went on and as the story progressed I found Naomi interesting, if a little annoying but I didn't really care about any of the characters.
The central mystery kept me going but once the secrets began getting revealed and the motives became clearer, it got more and more far-fetched. Particularly Zailer's wildly unprofessional behaviour, her cavalier and unethical treatment of a rape victim and the reasoning for the crimes. Conveniently, there was never a solicitor present during their Life on Mars style interrogations of the victims/suspects and anyway, the suspects would never spill the beans so comprehensively while barely being prompted. They might as well have said 'It's a fair cop, guv' and held out their wrists for the handcuffs.
It didn't ring true on many levels, especially the way the victims were targeted - from a criminal's viewpoint, it just didn't add up. Zailer said there were no coincidences but there were, particularly with her personal involvement with the case, which I won't spell out as it would spoil the story. To quote Naomi, `There are too many connections, too many links that are wrong.' I couldn't agree more. The story collapsed because it wan't believable and it was as if the main character was being put in perilous situations for the sake of making it a thriller, which is a shame when the writing is good.
I don't usually read police detective novels so maybe I'm not your standard reader of this sort of novel, but I found the will-they-won't-they storyline about Zailer and her male colleague decidedly clichéd and unoriginal. I assume the other novels in the series follow the same style and spin out the non-existent romance, but I was already tired of it after one book in the series.
I admire Sophie Hannah's writing, this book had a page turning quality and the psychology is interesting but the plot is ludicrous. I'll check reviews of her other novels and see if she's written anything more grounded in reality.
I read a pre-publication copy of this book that a friend passed on to me because I read and loved 'Little Face' - and I was worried this book would suffer from 'second-novel-syndrome'. No chance of that - it's brilliant, and definitely one of the most exciting thrillers I've read. The writing is beautifully poised and clear, the plot is multi-layered and extremely cleverly structured, Naomi is a great obsessive heroine (or perhaps anti-heroine's more accurate) - Sophie Hannah is getting more and more adept at exploring the dark side of the human psyche. Parts of this book are seriously chilling and disturbing, and there's a cleverly created sense of paranoia throughout - has Naomi's lover, Robert, been murdered? If so, by whom? Why won't his wife, Juliet, talk to anybody about what happened? I'm usually quite good at guessing the ends of thrillers, but I defy anyone to guess what's going on here. This novel also contains one of the most chilling, understated 'baddies' I've ever met in fiction. I would recommend this book to anyone (with a strong stomach!)
The subject of Hurting Distance is rape, not an easy subject for any author. But then isn't the whole point of fiction to deal with the good and the bad? At the start of the novel we are shown an email, written by N.J a victim of rape, on the Speak Out and Survive website telling not of her story of rape but of her dislike for people who have been raped speaking out and attention seeking and how she is jealous of the other people on the site with their `demanding boyfriends'. Instantly I felt like this could be awkward territory a rape victim who both disliked and was jealous of other rape victims, could Hannah deal with this unusual look at rape in a delicate way and yet make a hard hitting crime story out of it? The answer was of course yes.
N.J it turns out, in the next chapter so I am not spoiling anything, is Naomi Jenkins a sundial maker. From the outside she is a professional successful young business woman deep down she harbours a terrible secret from her past. Every Thursday night like clockwork Naomi meets her married lover Robert Haworth at the Traveltel they check into the same room, number eleven and spend the same amount of hours together and have done so for over a year. One day Robert doesn't turn up, in fact it appears he has vanished. Naomi reports it to the police but they think she has simply dumped him and ignore her. After going to his house and seeing something so shocking it both scares her and blanks her memory Naomi is sure something dreadful has happened and realises if she wants the police to find him she will have to convince them that he is a dangerous criminal.
I found Naomi an incredibly complex character. She goes through several different character traits in the book from powerful professional, victim, obsessive lover, jealous lover, calculating liar to vengeful woman. Hannah has created a very unlikely sort of anti-hero, how can I put that better? Though I didn't really like Naomi or her ethics I couldn't stop reading her and I also could see why she did what she did even though really it wasn't right. Puzzled? Read the book and you won't be.
Amongst the incredibly tight and twist laden story Hannah also continues the story of Detectives Charlie and Simon as Charlie is still fawning over Simon even after he rejected her advances at a party and after the last infatuation he had with the victim of Little Face in the previous novel. So amongst the already complex plotting is another one that adds its own tensions and complexities and you get to know them and their colleagues further.
I had wondered if Hannah would be able to better Little Face as it was just so good. With Hurting Distance she has bettered it (though that doesn't take anything away from its predecessor) and come up with an incredibly complex plot and some incredibly complex characters. There is suspense and a lot of twists without it being over complicated and though I cottoned on to one of links before it was announced I would never have guessed the four or more twists that then followed on. Superb!
This book has left me chilled. I was captivated! I read the second half of the book alone last night and I wish I hadn't; my heart was racing. Although there are a few bits I'd like to discuss with someone to clear up; this has got to be the best thriller I've read this year and possibly one of my top ten books of the year.
I've not read `Little Face' therefore I have no preconceptions of this writer's style. If it's as good as this I'll wait until I have company thank you very much! I did partially struggle with the how Sophie Hannah had Naomi addressing Robert as `you' as this made the reading somewhat challenging. However, when the plot runs away from about Chapter 9, I was able to switch off from this.
We are introduced to quite a few characters over the space of the novel but the main one is Naomi Jenkins. Having suffered a traumatic experience (and I mean traumatic, it is quite horrific) three years ago, she hasn't really got over it in my opinion. Having never told anyone she decides to describe it in detail when her married lover, Robert Haworth goes missing. She figures that by saying Robert committed the crime in question against her the police will take her concerns seriously, as opposed to presenting herself as a jealous mistress.
I've not carried out any research into this book so I don't know how Sophie Hannah has been able to write with such clarity but my goodness it is disturbing and gripping. You will like Naomi one minute and despise her next; then there comes along her flat mate, the detective and other characters. Be prepared for one huge rollercoaster. Cancel your plans and turn on the fire; this is a read you need to be ready for.
I loved this book. I had already read a couple of Sophie's books and had found them wonderfully different. As thrillers go, with more twists and turns than a contortionist performs on a daily basis, this is the first book I have literally not been able to put down in ages. I have a few more of hers on my bookshelf to read and can't wait to get stuck in. There are stages when Naomi, the protagonist is so single-minded and selfish, even when trying to appear unselfish that I want to slap her. She is verging on the unhinged. I was torn between this urge and sympathy for her. Again with SH's books, I had no inkling of what the ending was going to be, until she chose the moment to unveil it. Although I thought Naomi's initial action in going to the police a second time, with a different reason, was far-fetched, I think this showed the lengths she would go to for love. If you were to delve deeper, perhaps this is even linked to the traumatic experience she has been through. The 'conversation' she has with Robert throughout the book, is a potent device in both drawing the reader into Naomi's thought process and showing her love for him, as well as distancing the reader from Robert, which links in well later, particularly with regard to the reader's feelings toward him. I did think the Thursday night ritual was a little odd and Naomi should have got with the programme so to speak and told him to get stuffed years ago, but each to their own! I particularly liked the policewoman's additional role in this book and realise that i have read the books out of sequence, but it hasn't spoiled it for me, just made me more aware of certain elements. All in all, a cracking read. If an author can instil feeling in you whether like, hatred or exasperation, for me she has done a good job. Sooz
I needed something to read on Eurostar and picked this one up as it promised to be a gripping read and oh my goodness it was! I was hooked immediately by the quality of Sophie Hannah's writing. Like Naomi's best friend, you know from the start that there's something very wrong in her relationship with her married lover Robert, there are little hints that her feelings for him are obsessive and that he's controlling her but only as the story unravels does the extent of this 'wrongness' become clear. I actually thought it would have worked as a study of an abusive relationship without the rape storyline the writing and characterisation were so good. There's a compelling aspect to the story that makes you keep reading although I guessed pretty quickly why Robert's wife Juliet was behaving as she did. THe only reason I didn't give it five stars is that there were just too many coincidences and everything tidied itself up too neatly at the end. The story has stayed with me though and I agree with the reviewer who said that Hurting Distance has given the world a new, charismatic and thoroughly evil new baddie!
I read Little Face when it came out and thought it was okay, but not great. It was good enough to persuade me to give Sophie Hannah a second chance though, and I am glad that I did. Hurting Distance is much better.
The style of the writing which goes well beyond the race-along narrative of many crime novels gives a level of insight into the emotional states of a cast of flawed and often damaged characters which makes your sense of shock at unexpected turns of events that much greater. If you are looking for a comparison, I would put Sophie Hannah alongside Susan Hill as a novelist who writes about crime, rather than with the more typical crime writers.
In Hurting Distance, by using twin narratives based around Naomi - whose lover has disappeared - and Charlie, a female detective investigating the case Hannah provides a shifting perspective on events which keeps it interesting. Both women are also shown to be variously strong, weak, insightful and blind to some of the manipulations being practised on them. This blurs the distinction between victim and investigator in a really unusual way and as the story develops and the interconnections become clearer, it gives scope for the relationship between them to develop in totally unexpected ways.
This is a creepy, complex and shocking story which provdes a tied up resolution which is satisfying but not one that you will work out from 20 pages in. I will definitely buy the next Sophie Hannah on the basis of this one.