Book review: The Carrier by Sophie Hannah

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SOPHIE Hannah made her name as a sophisticated crime writer, penning psychological thrillers including Little Face and The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets, which have topped the bestseller charts.

The Carrier by Sophie Hannah

Hodder and Stoughton, £14.99

In her latest exploration of the dark side of the human psyche, successful businesswoman Gaby is forced to spend the night with a complete stranger in a hotel room when her flight from Germany is delayed. The young woman, Lauren, confides in Gaby that an innocent man is going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit – murdering his paralysed wife. Despite confessing to the ­police, he cannot tell them why or what drove him to kill her. The man is Tim Breary, the former love of Gaby’s life, and she pledges to prove his innocence.

All is never as it seems in the world of Hannah’s novels, and an over-reliance on the readers’ knowledge of the murkier end of human psychology makes The Carrier a difficult read, devoid of her usual sharp observation. As ever with Hannah, characters are hardly likeable: police officers Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, despite being resurrected from previous novels, are hard to identify with, and empathising with the brittle Gaby and her loveless relationship with taciturn Sean is even harder.

Hannah’s decision to deploy two narrators to tell the story, interspersed with tense, confessional letters written to a woman deep in a coma, creates a jerky, awkward narrative. The result is less of a taut thriller, more of a fragmented, compulsive ramble through the minds of characters who seem unconvinced by their own existence, let alone motives. The use of multiple perspectives seems deliberately designed to obscure what is a fairly predictable whodunnit, far from the refined conspiracies her fans will be expecting.

Despite some well-executed twists and turns in the police investigation, the novel remains a stilted attempt at uncovering the rationale behind murdering a stroke victim, culminating in an ultimately unsatisfactory denouement. Hannah is a gifted writer, but this fails to add to her reputation. «