Thursday, March 7, 2013

"The Point Of Rescue" by Sophie Hannah

Sally Thorning is a wife and mother who is shocked when she sees a news report about the wife and child of Mark Bretherick being discovered dead. She's shocked because about a year earlier she had an affair whilst on holiday with somebody called Mark Bretherick - and it wasn't the guy she sees on her television screen.

Charlie Zailer has moved to another position after her previous case in which her boyfriend turned out to be a psychopathic rapist (she was never attacked, but she's bizarrely traumatised by it). But she's pulled back into this case when she comes across a note written by Sally regarding her suspicions.

Is Mark Bretherick who he says he is? Were his family murdered, or did his wife kill herself and their child? Is Sally being stalked? Charlie, her sort-of on-off boyfriend Simon Waterhouse and the various detectives must sort through the clues - including the Bretherick wife's diary - to find out what is going on.

The Point Of Rescue is both intriguing and exasperating. The plotting is excellent. Once all the strands were revealed and explained, I was very impressed. This one was extremely well put together. However, getting there can sometimes be a very drawn-out, roundabout experience. When so many characters are behaving so erratically that you need entire chapters to explain why they did what they did, or why they behaved a certain way, there's a problem. It means that the author is deliberately obscuring proceedings to keep the truth hidden just that little bit longer.

For example, this reaches its absolute nadir in a climactic chapter in which Simon Waterhouse reveals what he knows and how he figured it out. Does he come out and explain it in a concise, logical manner like anybody else in the real world? No, he doesn't. He goes off on continual tangents, keeps commenting on the traffic - anything the author can think of to draw it out that little bit longer. That's not suspense. That's cheating. It's infuriating. I was literally saying out loud: "for Christ's sake, get on with it!" It's unnecessary.

The relationship between Charlie and Simon is very tiresome. The fact that Charlie is acting like a victimised prima donna when she was NEVER ACTUALLY A VICTIM is really annoying. They have a sort-of romance that doesn't resemble any sort of romance that would exist in the real world. Even a quaint Mills & Boons heroine would roll her eyes at the way Charlie behaves around Simon. This is the sort of relationship that exists in fiction only because the author obviously thinks it's "unique". Um, no it's not. If anything, it just gets in the way. A lot of plot space gets taken up by their "relationship". Blech. Get on with your complex plot already.

This extends to the rest of the police team. Why are there so many of them? Why do we learn so many unnecessary things about them? Why is it so hard to tell all of them apart? Little Face and Hurting Distance were complex thrillers that didn't waste any words. This one wastes not just words, but entire chapters. Did the publisher instruct Hannah to inject more angst into the relationship between not just Charlie and Simon, but the entire police department?

One character move that took me out of the story and nearly made me throw the book across the room was when Sally managed to escape the house she was being held hostage in, but decided she didn't want to be found in her nightgown and have her secret affair be revealed, so she goes to extraordinary lengths, including injuring herself, to GO BACK IN THE HOUSE to clean up and get changed. What the f***? I suspect Hannah has never seen a horror movie before, because even the girls in horror films rarely do anything that f***ing stupid. Jeez. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Character-wise, The Point Of Rescue pretty much falls flat on its face. But the plot is great. Lots of little details dropped throughout the narrative that take on importance and relevance later in the book. Very intricately woven. I did enjoy it, but the huge, glaring flaws were highly evident, particularly because Hannah's previous works were so much tighter.

I started reading The Other Half Lives, her next novel, and had to put it down. After an okay start, it proceeded to waste nearly 30 pages on Charlie and Simon's engagement party. It's a very bulky novel, and I simply don't know if I can stand to slog through more than 500 pages of Charlie and Simon's ridiculous relationship troubles. Sigh.

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