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