Sophie Hannah is a poet who turned to crime fiction a few years ago and who has achieved enormous success. That success is, I think, due to two factors. First, the quality of her writing. Second, the quality of her plots. The combination is compelling.
Her gifts are evident in Lasting Damage. This is a chunky novel of psychological suspense which follows a similar pattern to that of her earlier books. We are presented with a bizarre situation by a female narrator who may or may not be reliable, and the mystery is investigated by a team including Hannah's regular detectives, Charlie and Simon, who have just got married. The first and third person perspectives are maintained throughout the story.
In the small hours one morning, a woman logs onto a property website in search of a particular house in Cambridge. While on a "virtual tour", she sees a woman face down on the carpet, in a huge pool of blood. She wakes her husband, but when he looks at the computer, there is no sign of any corpse.
Sophie Hannah uses, as it seems to me, some of the devices of the classic impossible crime mystery and brings them bang up-to-date. Of course, as with any paradoxical or impossible crime story, whether written by Chesterton, John Dickson Carr or Hannah, the reader needs to suspend disbelief. But I thought the premise was brilliant, although I felt that the book could easily have been shortened leading to cutting down on some of the very extensive dialogue.
Pleasingly, my new firm has a reading group, and this book was its latest choice. Some of the group members, who are not steeped in detective fiction, were sharply critical of the novel, which I found rather sobering. My own view is that, despite its length, this was an entertaining mystery written by one of our most talented current practitioners.