Friday, 12 May 2017

Crime fiction: Sophie Hannah's The Other Half Lives (Culver Valley series book 4)

Publication date: 5th February 2009
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton

The US publication of this book has a different title: The Dead Lie Down

Publisher's synopisis
Ruth Bussey knows what it means to be in the wrong - and to be wronged. She once did something she regrets, and was punished excessively for it. Now Ruth is trying to rebuild her life and has found a love she doesn't believe she deserves. Aidan Seed is a passionate, intense man who has also been damaged by his past. Desperate to connect with the woman he loves, he confides his secret: he killed a woman called Mary Trelease. Through her shock, Ruth recognises the name. And when she's realised why it's familiar, her fear and revulsion deepen. The Mary Trelease that Ruth knows is very much alive...

My Review 

Once again we the readers get a panoramic view in this the 4th story in the Culver Valley series, which is partly told by Ruth and partly from the perspective of plain clothes police officer, Charlie Zailer.  See reviews of Little Face, Hurting Distance & Point of Rescue for further details.

I had suggested that Book 3 could be 'The Point of Rescue'  for the series, i.e. the point at which the standard has been raised.  I am pleased to say that 'The Other Half Lives' confirms that Sophie Hannah is improving the quality of these books with each publication.

The crime mystery is as complex as ever but I really liked this one.  It is very imaginative and comes together very nicely.  I still had some issues however - too many layers and too much going on in the central plot (less is more), and, as always, a civilian, in this case Ruth, takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes; her investigation runs in parallel with the Culver Valley CID and she is a step ahead of them.  Simon is the exception - he is basically the star of the show - and is as persistent at uncovering the truth as ever.

Charlie is a difficult character and one not easy to like.  She is a porcupine (prickly towards anyone who tries to get too close), but this is understandable considering what she has had to endure (albeit self-inflicted).  Her relationship with Simon continues to develop in an unconventional way.  As I have mentioned previously, the romance scores zero on the fluff-o-metre (yay!), and is quite realistic.  Their story is told in tiny drips so that it does not dominate the central plot, and yet so much is revealed about them as characters, as well as the deep feelings they share. (See, less is more!)  I would say this in particular is quite masterly in its execution.

What can I say? I am completely hooked!


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