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Friday, 21 March 2014

The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

The Telling Error

I’m a huge fan of Sophie Hannah’s Culver Valley series, so I was really thrilled to be sent a review copy of ‘The Telling Error’ so that I could feed my addiction.

Here’s what the publishers have to say about the book:

Stuck in a traffic jam, Nicki Clements sees a face she hoped never to see again. It's definitely him, the same police officer, stopping each car on Elmhirst Road. Keen to avoid him, Nicki does a U-turn and makes a panicky escape.

Or so she thinks. The next day, Nicki is pulled in for questioning in connection with the murder of Damon Blundy, controversial newspaper columnist and resident of Elmhirst Road.

Nicki can't answer any of the questions detectives fire at her. She has no idea why the killer used a knife in such a peculiar way, or why 'HE IS NO LESS DEAD' was painted on Blundy's study wall. And she can't explain why she avoided Elmhirst Road that day without revealing the secret that could ruin her life.

Because although Nicki is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent . . .

Initially we are presented with two scenarios in this novel. One is a particularly twisted and elaborate murder with potentially hundreds of suspects, the other a woman going about her daily business, but with a secret to hide. The way that she goes about hiding that secret is the first thing to entangle her with the murder, but as the story continues the two scenarios become inextricably entangled.

As psychological thrillers go, this one is a stunner. It has that air of impossibility that characterises Sophie Hannah novels, and makes readers want to power towards the end to find out what really happened and why. But, as always, this is so much more than just a psychological thriller.

What I like about Sophie Hannah’s work is that each book invites you to think really carefully about what it means to be human, and about particular aspects of our humanity.

In ‘The Telling Error’, we are asked to think particularly about what it means to lie and to be lied to. Nicki has told a lot of lies and is keeping a lot of secrets, and they are her undoing. But a lot of the other characters are keeping secrets as well, and this adds to the complexity of the plot. What does Melissa, who is married to Nicki’s brother, know about Nicki’s childhood? Why has Damon Blundy been pretending to love his wife when she is convinced he doesn’t?

Which leads on to the second conundrum at the heart of this novel – what does it mean to love and to be loved? Damon’s relationship with his wife, and Nicki’s with her husband are put under the microscope and offer up some fascinating answers.

The structure of the novel is very clever as well. Nicki’s narrative carries the story, but we also have a posthumous contribution from the victim in the form of a series of online newspaper columns. In fact, the novel is very much at home in the online world, having email, Twitter, and chat-room correspondence telling part of the story as well.

The interactions between the team of detectives in Spilling continue to fascinate. At the centre of this we have the extremely touching and well drawn relationship between Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. But we also have Simon’s relationship with Proust, his boss, Simon’s relationships with his colleagues Gibbs and Sellers, Charlie’s relationship with Gibbs, and his (adulterous one) with her sister Liv. Going back to these characters, and seeing how the subtle balances between them have changed, is one of the delights of any new book in this series and more than enough to keep me going back for more.

For me, one of the most interesting things about this book was the effect that the conclusion of the case has on Simon Waterhouse. I can’t really say any more than that without spoilers, but that, more than anything, is what has me looking forward to the next one.

I loved this book on so many levels and can highly recommend it to existing Sophie Hannah fans and new readers alike.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.


Karen said...

I loved Sophie's earlier novels, but was really disappointed with the last one as it seemed overly complex with far too much explaining of the plot towards the end. After your review, I've high hopes for the latest one!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading this book.

Karen, if it's The Carrier you're talking about, then I found it overcomplicated too. My head was spinning after that one. Hopefully I'll do better with The Telling Error.