Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Little Face" by Sophie Hannah

New mother Alice Farncourt comes home from a session at the health club, only to claim that the baby in the cot is not her own. Her husband David thinks she is insane, and tells the police as much. Her mother-in-law Vivienne sits on the fence, unwilling to believe her son or his wife is lying. Intercut with these current events are chapters set one week later, in which David has reported his wife and baby missing to detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. As the two storylines merge, the detectives must figure out the mystery behind the baby-swap and whether there is any connection to the murder of David's first wife, Laura, which was thought to have been solved, as well as Alice's current disappearance.

There's no denying "Little Face" is a very well-written, well-constructed mystery. Even though the story keeps jumping back and forth in time, it never becomes confusing. The suspense is solid as several different scenarios are dangled in front of us as to the reason behind all the mysterious events. Hannah doesn't attempt to pull the wool over our eyes with any out-of-left-field plot twists - you either figure it out yourself or you don't. Very refreshing. I had my suspicions, but could never come to any firm conclusions, so I let the story carry me along. There was also strong characterisation, giving credibility to various characters' actions and behaviours. For example, I thought the main character of Alice was a bit of a wet napkin, but Hannah gets you inside her head so skilfully that you understand the reasons behind the decisions/actions she makes, even if you don't agree with them. And, ultimately, I wanted her to triumph against adversity. I felt the solution to everything a little pat, and the motives behind some actions pretty far-fetched, leaving this one sometimes feeling like a quaint Miss Marple mystery.

However, if you're after a psychological thriller that keeps you guessing, with well-defined and believable characters, "Little Face" is the one to get. My quibbles with it are minor, and the good points certainly outweigh the bad. Hannah is a talented writer that I will be reading more from.

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