Tag Archives: Sophie Hannah

Best Friends For Life, And For Death…

“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.

Sophie Hannah

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…

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Don’t Love Him. Don’t Trust Him. Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You…

“Would you trust a complete stranger?

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more.

Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?”

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Born in 1971, Cambridge based author Sophie Hannah is probably best known for her series of crime novels featuring the police detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse – two of which have been made into television series under the title “Case Sensitive”.

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

For the 2015 Quick Reads campaign – which aims to promote reading amongst adults who wouldn’t normally read by producing stories from big name authors that are shorter and less complex than their usual novels – Hannah has written “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen”.

Chloe Daniels is overjoyed when Tom Rigbey rides to the rescue, literally, when she accidentally leaves her daughter Freya’s sheet music in her car on the way to an audition for a part in a musical.

Despite her best friend Lorna’s advice, Chloe is desperate to track Tom down and thank him. Receptionist Nadine Caspian tries to warn Chloe off Tom but won’t go into detail, and Chloe is rather reluctant to be put off.

Whilst Chloe is getting carried away with her thoughts, Lorna asks her friend Charlie Zailer and Charlie’s husband Simon Waterhouse to get involved.

It’s not long before Simon has everything worked out – is Tom, as Lorna suspects, far too good to be true? Or is there an altogether less expected answer to the mystery?

Clearly this was unlikely to be as satisfying a read as Hannah’s previous Zailer / Waterhouse stories, at just 123 pages and slightly larger than normal typeface, and that proved to be the case. I personally am looking forward to a full length follow-up to last year’s excellent “The Telling Error”, which was the ninth book in the series proper.

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

That said however, and bearing in mind the initial purpose of this book, it does the job admirably. There is enough detail and description to keep things interesting, without too many distractions or red herrings, and a decent enough mystery and resolution to make reading this worthwhile…