“A killer that the police are calling ‘Billy Dead Mates’ is murdering pairs of best friends, one by one.
Before they die, each victim is given a small white book…
For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or work out what the white books mean. And then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward.
Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy, and does he want to kill her? Kim has no friends and trusts no one, so how – and why – could she possibly be Billy Dead Mates’ next target?…”
OK, where to start with this one? This is the tenth full novel in Sophie Hannah‘s “Culver Valley” series featuring police detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse and follows on from 2014’s ninth entry to the series, the excellent “The Telling Error”.
In the meantime, Zailer and Waterhouse appeared in Hannah’s Quick Reads novella “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen” during 2015.
Published back in 2016, “The Narrow Bed” finds us back in full novel-length territory as we catch up with the two police officers, their colleagues and their caseload.
This particular tale is told from a variety of angles. There are those of both Zailer and Waterhouse and they make their investigations – in Charlie’s case it’s largely to do with finding out what’s going on with her sister Liv and her supposed ex Gibbs, whilst Simon is involved with the “Billy Dead Mates” case. In addition, there are chapters told from the perspective of Kim Tribbeck who may be a target for the killer, extracts from Kim’s to-be-published autobiography which looks back at the case, and various blog posts, emails and letters from other characters. Whilst this may seem, on the surface, to be confusing the author has done a very good job of making the tale easy to keep up with, without giving away any more clues than she wants to.
There is a quote from one of the book’s characters where they say “books are everywhere in this investigation” and that is very true. Whether it be the small white books given to the murder victims, Waterhouse’s dog-eared but beloved copy of “Moby Dick” or Tribbeck’s own book there are indeed plenty of books littered throughout the story, and they play a part in the motivation of the mysterious killer too. And that latter point is perhaps where I felt this book fell down slightly, as the rationale for the baddie to be killing the pairs of friends etc. just didn’t come across as convincing or likely – even allowing for some mental instability. That said, however, there is certainly some food for thought in terms of the advantages / disadvantages that come with the never-ending march of technological progress.
Not her strongest novel, then, but as always Hannah’s writing is clever, witty and insightful and her characters get plenty of room to develop. Whilst Waterhouse is always one step – at least – ahead of his wife and colleagues in determining what’s going on, most readers don’t have his unnatural abilities and so the secrets are kept back until the author wants us to uncover them, making this a jolly good read…