Lasting Damage, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The unnervingly good sixth psychological thriller from bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah, not to be missed for readers of Nicci French and Liane Moriarty. 'Jaw-droppingly assured' Daily Express 'A first-class whodunnit' Scotsman Don't go into the other woman's house...It's 1.15 a.m. Connie Bowskill should be asleep. Instead, she's logging on to a property website in search of a particular house: 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge. She knows it's for sale; she saw the estate agent's board in the front garden less than six hours ago. Soon Connie is clicking on the 'Virtual Tour' button, keen to see the inside of 11 Bentley Grove and put her mind at rest once and for all. She finds herself looking at a scene from a nightmare: in the living room, in the middle of the carpet, there's a woman lying face down in a huge pool of blood. In shock, Connie wakes her husband Kit. But when Kit sits down at the computer to take a look, he sees no dead body, only a pristine beige carpet in a perfectly ordinary room ...


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464 pages, maps
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9780340980682



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Review by

Sophie Hannah is a published poet and an established crime fiction author. ‘Lasting Damage’ is her sixth psychological crime thriller and is similar in style and approach to her previous offerings.Now you see it…At 1.15am, after waiting for her husband to fall asleep, Connie Bowskill begins to watch a virtual tour of a house for sale in Cambridge. She’s watching the tour to set her mind at rest – but when the camera reveals a dead body in the living room, she is thrown into panic. Waking her husband, Kit, she insists that he watches the virtual tour, but when he views the living room there is nothing to be seen but a spotless beige carpet…This is the reason I read Sophie Hannah’s books: I find the premises really strange and immediately want answers to about a million questions. Why was Connie looking at this house in the first place? Did she imagine the body? If not, who is it, what happened and who on earth would upload the image to a virtual tour on a property selling website? If she did imagine it – why? And if Connie isn’t mad, can her husband be trusted?In case this wasn’t gripping enough, the actual story opens with a frightening scene involving Kit and Connie set a week after the events of the first chapter. I found that while I was reading the story and my suspicions were shifting it was helpful to reread this introductory snippet from the story’s denouement.…now you don’t.As the story develops, Hannah gradually draws in a range of supporting characters and develops a tale about trust and obsession. Personally I found the events convoluted but plausible – not likely, but possible.This story is structured in the same way as Hannah’s previous crime novels. Chapters alternate between the first person viewpoint of a female protagonist and a third person viewpoint from Spilling’s police force. Inbetween some of the chapters are documents relevant to the case, though in this instance it is initially impossible to understand how they could be relevant. I like this approach as it allows Hannah to create a range of cliffhangers and to carefully control the flow of information. It can mean that the beginnings of her books feel a little disjointed as three different perspectives are introduced relatively quickly, but once all three have begun they work together well.This is not a straightforward police procedural as there is rather more focus on the detectives’ interaction and personal lives than one might expect, and the case is solved through lots of discussion and intuition and not much evidence, as the evidence itself is so minimal and difficult to interpret. I find this style appealing, if a little too reliant at times on Simon Waterhouse’s ability to make connections that nobody else can, but if you prefer more evidence-based crime solving then you’ll need to look elsewhere. There’s not a fingerprint to be seen here.A secret seriesAlthough there is nothing on the cover or in the blurb to indicate that this story forms part of a series, this is actually Hannah’s sixth book following the investigations of Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse. I still find this lack of publicity rather odd, but feel that newcomers should find that the portion of the book which follows the investigations (and, more commonly, the relationships of the police officers) is easy enough to follow. Anything which needs recapping is briskly recapped at an appropriate point, which meant that as someone who has read all the previous books, I did not feel that I was being bored by being forced to revisit old information.Interestingly, Hannah brings back a character from her first book ‘Little Face’ here and there is a suggestion that she may yet recur in the next book. I think this is a nice nod to fans of the series without being intrusive or confusing to newcomers.The relationship between Charlie and Simon continues to be bizarre and I, for one, wouldn’t object to the whole idea being dropped. Since the changes brought about by ‘The Point of Rescue’ (the third book in the series) I have found their relationship increasingly odd and, personally, I would rather focus on the policing. However, for fans of previous books and this relationship in particular there is plenty here to keep your interest.How not to run a police departmentSimon’s preferred style of investigation is to ignore his superiors and chase seemingly insignificant details which ultimately allow the complexities of the entire case to be revealed to him. While this works for him (to the great annoyance of his boss, Giles Proust) it is obviously not the preferred procedure as dociumented in the Detectives Training Manual and I am left wondering quite how he has managed to keep his job. It is also, if one is in realistic mode, a little odd that, as Simon mournfully observes at one point, all his cases seem to involve extremely unusual and unconventional motives. If you’re willing to set these minor quibbles to one side, you might just enjoy this.The denouement is very heavy on discussion. Simon explains his astonishing theories to his colleagues in a convenient traffic jam while Connie receives detailed explanations from another source. I like endings where everything is neatly wrapped up so this style suits me, but some readers are likely to find the ending too heavy on conversation. Hannah’s books aren’t thrillers where the reader is given sufficient clues to catch the killer before the end; instead, the fun is in piecing the story together retrospectively, and it does all fit together well.Conclusions•If you have liked Sophie Hannah’s previous novels then it’s likely you will enjoy this as there are plenty of similarities in style and structure.•If you’ve never read her books before, there’s no need to start at the beginning (although I do recommend ‘Little Face’) as, although this is part of a series of crime novels, there is sufficient information to help you understand the relationships between the detectives.•Read if: you enjoy crime where motive is crucial and evidence is minimal; you don’t mind talky denouements where all is neatly wrapped up; you like reading about people’s relationships.•Avoid if: you like to be able to solve the crime as you read; you enjoy plots driven by forensic or other, tangible, evidence; you like action packed endings with some things left unsaid or unresolved.

Review by

This novel begins with an intriguing glimpse of scary events to come before stepping back seven days to relative normality and immediately grabs the reader’s attention: you can’t help but wonder how we are going to get from point A to point B in just a week. I admired the author’s skill and worried just a teeny bit that the answer to that question might turn out to be a let-down.The protagonist, Connie, sees something highly gruesome while browsing a property website, and is dismissed as delusional when nobody else can see it. Connie comes across as unhinged, but given her insufferable, suffocating family she can probably be forgiven. The bits with the parents and sister in were my favourites – brilliant, brilliant characters. Connie observes at one point that her mother could be replaced with a robot and nobody would notice “as long as they remembered to programme enough clichés into the machine's vocabulary”!The other characters are mostly police officers. What a lot of them there were, all seemingly occupying more space in the novel than their role in the plot warranted. They confused me with their blokey banter and in-jokes. Then, when I had been reading the novel a day or so and went online to put it on my “currently reading” list on here, I realised it is the latest in a series all featuring these cops. Everything fitted into place, including the in-jokes, and my enjoyment of it suffered a little. How many spoilers was I ingesting without knowing it? Because I knew I was going to want to go on and read this author’s earlier work if the quality was as high as this one. It got to the point where I actually skipped a section in the middle where two of the cops were discussing some event from a previous novel. I so so so wish publishers would put a number on the spine to indicate that there’s a series going on. That’s one gripe.My other gripe is the ending. [Possible spoiler territory but no plot details revealed] Yes we got from Point A to Point B. Yes it was all explained. But in what excruciating, brain-knotting detail. It felt a bit like when you’re packing up your groceries in the supermarket in an inadequate carrier bag. You try to knot the handles to keep it all in, but somewhere along the way it gets holed at the bottom and before you know it cans of beans are falling out and there are onions rolling around in the gutter. No matter how hard you try to keep everything in, it springs a leak somewhere else. So it was here, there seemed to be endless ‘but why did you do such and such’ questions, with endless complicated explanations, as though the story had been made as exciting as possible for the reader at the cost of its grip on reality. Too much reliance on people ‘just knowing’ that someone will act in a particular way, and policemen who practically have second sight. Great story, but it was a story: it wasn’t real.

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