Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Little Face - Sophie Hannah (Kindle)

 I think I first heard about Sophie Hannah from Jackie at Farm Lane Books.  I'd also heard the author compared to Tana French (dangerous I know, especially since French ranks up there with Goddess in my book).  I bought "Little Face" and "Hurting Distance" on my Kindle ages ago, but never made the time to read her.  Then at our last Books, Babes and Bordeaux meeting, our host brought a few books out that were on her TBR list as suggestions for April, and OMG!  There was "Little Face"!  I think my eyes popped out of my head and I quickly piped up that I was voting for that one.  I could barely conceal my excitement, and was squirming like a fidgety kid.  I am obnoxious.  (The book competing against "Little Face" was "Water For Elephants".  Which OK, it is a good book, and we could have gone to the movies as a book club field trip.)  But "Little Face" it was.

Synopsis:  Alice is a new mom, having recovered from a long labor and C-Section two weeks prior.  She's been married for a couple of years and lives with her husband at her wealthy mother-in-law's estate.  She ventures out for the first time since Baby Florence's birth to run errands, but when she returns, she finds the front door open, her husband asleep, and the baby in the crib to be one she doesn't recognize.  Her husband's attitude abruptly turns vindictive and sinister, and she is accused of being a liar.  Nobody believes Alice, fearing she is just suffering from post-partum depression.  A week later, Alice and the baby disappear.

Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse and his snappy female boss Detective Sergeant Charlie Zailer are assigned to both cases.  Simon is known for his sharp investigative mind, but this time, his skills are in doubt when the department suspects he has gone soft for Alice.  The relationship between the two police officers are complicated and personal, which inspires jealousy and a lack of professionalism needed for an effective investigation.  As facts begin to surface about the murder of Alice's husband's previous wife, and his controlling mother, Simon fears Alice may have suffered the same fate.

In a narrative alternating between Alice before her disappearance, and Simon after her disappearance, we approach this mystery from the inside-out and from the outside-in.  What is real, what is an illusion, and are there any innocent parties here?  Fasten those seat-belts.  You are in for a twisty ride.

My thoughts:  For a literary mystery thriller, this book was solid.  You are immediately swept into the horror...a kidnapped baby replaced with a similar-looking one, but nobody believes the over-anxious mother.  Why would someone swap a baby?  How did it happen right under the father's nose?  Instant and violent emotion between husband and wife.  Guilt, blame, anger, doubt.  A father-mother scenario that resembles Norman Bates and his mama.  The whole thing was stomach-turning as well as page-turning.

Equally as intriguing was the mess of egos and emotions between Simon and Charlie.  Each have personal issues with themselves and each other, and the tangled quagmire created a juicy side-plot...one that the reader wants to see resolved.

There are respectable twists, there is murder most foul, there are several levels and categories of evil at work.  It was a tense read from beginning to finish.  However (and I'm being intentionally vague here for spoiler purposes) I felt that the ending was a complete and total rip-off.  I felt I had been lied to and that my trust had been betrayed.  I was angry for awhile.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had been taken for a ride. 

I know your burning question really is...is Sophie Hannah comparable to Tana French?  Let me just settle this right now.  No.  Tana French is a master at characterization and interpersonal relationships, and in no way did this story measure up in that department.  Although there was a "connection" between Alice and Simon, it never went past a superficial level from my point of view.  And while Simon and Charlie's relationship was complicated and messy, I never felt heat and sparks and angst flying off the pages like I do when I read French.  Her stuff is palpable.

Will I continue to read Hannah?  Yes, probably, but I will read warily.  French's superb talent aside, Hannah is still a strong contender in the literary mystery thriller genre.  She has just better not pull the rug out from under me again.

Thoughts from Books, Babes and Bordeaux:  Emotions in our group ranged from skepticism to anger.  We all agreed it was a very quick read, but many felt there were things about the characters' behavior that just didn't add up.  As far as book club discussion, though, it was lively.  At one point we were all talking really fast and really loud at the same time.  We realized the last time we'd done that was when we talked about Henrietta Lacks, so in that sense, it was a successful evening (that and Heather's chocolate chip banana bread!).    

3.5 out of 5 stars          


17 comments:

Anita said...

I like a mystery book, and this premiss sounds very interesting. I have read Tana French yet but her book In the Woods has been on my TBR list fora long time.
Your book group sounds great...and food too...get out!!

bermudaonion said...

I want to know why the father couldn't tell the baby had been switched - was he in on it? The book sounds interesting to me.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Okay, maybe not Tana French-worthy but still sounds like a book that might be gripping enough to keep me awake and a bit freaked out. Might need to pick this one up at some point...

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I like the idea of this story. Totally creepy and horrifying but solid thriller. I haven't read Tara French yet (yes, I'm the one) but I know she's suppose to be just amazing. This sounds like a very good read.

reviewsbylola said...

I am a new fan of Sophie Hannah. I agree, she is not as talented as Tana French but as far as literary thrillers go, Hannah definitely writes engrossing books.

Ti said...

Just the title gives me the creeps!

Zibilee said...

I agree with you assessment, I felt cheated by the ending of the book. Up until that point, the tension was so high you could cut it with a knife, but then things just fell apart for me. I think Hannah didn't know what to do with the story she created in the end, and may have written herself into a corner. Great review on this one, by the way!

Julie P. said...

I've found that the best discussions for my group are when we don't all love the book.

Marce said...

I read Wrong Mother and just wasn't impressed. I have got to read a Tana French, everyone says she is amazing.

farmlanebooks said...

It is nice to be the one raving about a book for once! As you know I loved this. I loved the ending and the psychological insight into a disturbed new mother. I agree that French is far superior at characterisation, but this book had a far greater emotional impact on me. I loved the way I couldn't predict the ending, but it still made sense to me. Her other books don't have the same type of ending so you may enjoy them more, but at least it generated a good discussion!

Nymeth said...

She's on my list of authors to check out at some point, but I'll be sure to read Tana French first!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sounds very good and creepy! Sort of reminds me of Rosemary's Baby...

Melody said...

I read this book some time ago, and I agree that her books can't be compared with Tana French's books. Their writing style is different and French's characterisations are simply excellent.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

As you know, I enjoyed "The Wrong Mother" also by Hannah. I would agree with you, based on that book, that the suspense is there but the caliber is nowhere near Tana French in terms of the characters and relationships. I would definitely be interested in reading this one, though - too bad I wasn't able to make the book club meeting!

Beth F said...

Sounds so spooky -- in a good way. Wow. I haven't read French yet either (hanging head in shame).

Jenners said...

The description sounds so good. And while she isn't Tana French, I bet she is better than most of the formulaic mystery/thriller writers out there -- at least she sounds like it. But I"m concerned about the ending. Nothing I hate more than an ending that makes me angry. Still, I might have to give her a go.

Alice Teh said...

I have this book somewhere and I believe I got it from Melody (her giveaway). I also have one of French's books and I say there are just too many nice books waiting to be read. I'll catch up. Someday. Hopefully soon. :)