Tag Archives: A Room Swept White

Novel Insights’ March Review

March has been a funny mix of reads on Novel Insights! I started the month with a crime-wave of sorts, but also randomly read some spooky short stories, a social commentary on Egypt and a Chilean novel. Here’s the summary, favourites first:

Lasting Damage, by Sophie Hannah

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…delivered a typically twisted finale.”

Lasting Damage

 

 

 

 

The Tooth, by Shirley Jackson

4 stars 4/5

“…a brilliant bite-sized selection of unsettling moments and everyday horrors.”

Pengin Mini Modern Classics, The Tooth, Shirley Jackson

 

 

 

The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany

4 stars4/5

“…vibrant characters and an engaging narrative.”

The Yacoubian Building

A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah

3.5 stars3.5/5

“…a couple of little frustrations for me… overall a cracking page-turner…”

A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah

 

 

 

 

The Private Life of Trees, by Alejandro Zambra

3.5 stars3.5/5

…playfully written…”

Private Life of Trees, by Alejandro Zambra

 

 

 

 

What were your favourite reads in March?

A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah

3.5 stars3.5/5

A Room Swept White is the fifth book in Sophie Hannah’s crime novel series.

A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah

Hodder Paperbacks, 2010 edition (paperback), 480 pages - own purchase.

The central story revolves around a group of mothers whose children have died in uncertain circumstances. The mothers were convicted of killing their children and then later acquitted with the cause being put down to cot-death. Fliss Benson is asked to produce a documentary about the cases. She takes over from her boss Lawrence Natrass who is a zealous campaigner against what he believes are women who are victims of a miscarriage of justice. One day at work, Fliss receives an anonymous envelope. Inside it is a card with sixteen numbers laid out in four by four rows. She dismisses it as a prank until she later finds out that one of the mothers, Helen Yardley is found dead in her home. A card has been left on the body, just like the one Fliss received.

A Room Swept White is addictive. Like the other books, the story is told from the point of view of a female narrator – in this case Fliss – and through a series of interviews, articles and transcripts, as well as a more typical third-person retelling of the police investigation. I like this style because the story moves along at a fast pace and getting into the narrators head makes me feel more involved in the plot. Fliss is a bit neurotic which was a little irritating at times but also entertaining.

I thought that the cot death storyline risky but ultimately well implemented. Hannah uses the ambiguity surrounding the cases to full effect, causing the reader to constantly question whether the women were innocent victims of a miscarriage of justice or in some way culpable. A potentially sensitive subject, I think that Hannah quite cleverly explores the complexities in judging SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) cases. She looks at how difficult it is for a jury with facts in a situation where medical opinion is not always conclusive and firm evidence is not available.

As usual, I loved the pithy writing style and it felt welcome to go back to characters that I was familiar with – Detective Simon Waterhouse, Sergeant Zailer and the rest. In A Room Swept White there was less focus on the relationship between Zailer and Waterhouse, which was ok because there was so much going on, but I miss this in the context of the series. I felt that the whole team was more involved in this book which I liked because it meant that I got to know more of the characters on the force.

There were a couple of little frustrations for me. The plot line involving the Chief Police Officer nicknamed “The Snowman” felt unfinished and the reveal wasn’t as much of a twist as in some of the other books in the series and felt over-complicated. However these are really small complaints about what was overall a cracking page-turner. I spent most of Sunday afternoon curled up and whizzed through the whole second half of the book (250 pages!). I’m just glad that I got myself a copy of Lasting Damage to read next, so I don’t have to go cold turkey…

My other Sophie Hannah reviews can be found here.

If you have read Sophie Hannah, are there other authors who have a similar style that you would recommend?

Serendipitous Book-Buying

Yesterday I was made a delightful last-minute diversion to see Savidge Reads after discovering that my trip up North for work would mean I was within spitting distance of Manchester. I was sad to have been unable to make it in time to go to John Rylands library – see how fabulous it looks:

John Rylands Library

Oh dear, I’ll suppose I’ll just have to go back and visit again!

Of course a trip to a book shop was in order, so we popped into Waterstones for a drink in the café.

Simon persuaded me that I should get the new Sophie Hannah book – Lasting Damage.  I’m a bit off a  devotee, having started out reading her short stories and going on to read every one of the Waterhouse & Zailer series. It was with very little difficulty that he overcame my grumbling about not having read A Room Swept White first by pointing out that the new hardback cost less than a paperback.

I was thoroughly impressed by the Penguin Mini-Moderns, and Shirley Jackson’s writing was recommended to me after my glowing review of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s short stories, so I also invested a modest £3 in the The Tooth.

And… what should happen today? I fell into my local second hand book shop and lo and behold a nearly-new copy of A Room Swept White was for sale for £2.50.

Have you made any serendipitous book purchases recently?