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Books 12 & 13: Hurting Distance and Red Mist

Book 12: Hurting Distance (Spilling CID 02) .
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2007.
Genre: Psychological Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 408 pages.

In the US this was published in 2010 as The Truth-Teller's Lie beginning a tradition of different titles for her US editions. The central character is Naomi Jenkins, who when her unhappily married lover, Robert Haworth, fails to turn up for their weekly tryst with no explanation becomes convinced that he has come to harm. After an upsetting visit to his home where she encounters his wife, Naomi informs the police of her suspicions. They do not seem concerned especially after his wife tells them he is not missing but merely out of town. In desperation, Naomi decides that if she can convince the police that Robert is a danger to others then they'd have to look for him. To do this she draws upon a terrible event in her own life, one that she had never spoken to anyone about.

This proved another satisfying psychological thriller from Sophie Hannah. I zoomed through this novel and again really had no idea where she was taking the plot, which is a delight even if many of the twists entered quite disturbing territory. Naomi certainly begins as fairly unlikeable character given her obsession with Robert and her willingness to manipulate others. However, Hannah's skill as a writer is such that over the course of the novel Naomi did grow more sympathetic especially as her past is revealed.

By combining narrative points of view Hannah has the best of both worlds in being able to give a fairly straight-forward account of the police investigation alongside Naomi's point of view, in which she addresses her absent lover. In addition, the personalities and story arcs of the police characters are now coming together for me, despite reading the series out of order.

Beginning of 'Hurting Distance' on Sophie Hannah's website.

Book 13: Red Mist (Kay Scarpetta 19).
Author: Patricia Cornwell, 2011
Genre: Forensic Crime Thriller
Other Details: Hardback. 498 pages.

This is a hard one to summarize as so much of the plot relates to events in Book 18 Port Mortuary. Basically six months later Kay Scarpetta undertakes a personal visit to a women's prison in Georgia to visit the mother of the person responsible for the murders in Port Mortuary. Her husband is dead set against the visit but the ever-stubborn Kay goes anyway. While there she becomes aware of the case of a woman on death row accused of the murder of a Savannah family years before and discovers that one of her frenemies is looking into. In addition, a series of inexplicable deaths come to Kay's attention that may or may not be linked.

After really enjoying 'Port Mortuary' and welcoming the return of Kay as narrator, I pounced on this latest one hoping for more of the same. However, I felt that some of the same problems that had become so annoying in her novels in recent years re-surfaced; mainly that the personal lives and issues of Kay and supporting characters seemed to take centre stage. Of course, it is normal in a series to have ongoing character arcs but here the impression is the universe revolves around Kay Scarpetta to the point that she appears once again to be the target of someone trying to ruin her reputation. Certainly the forensics and investigative aspects take a back seat while Kay as narrator just goes on and on and on in a stream of consciousness monologue that adds little to the story. The novel felt like it needed a strong editor but when someone is as famous as Cornwell editors seem to become timid. So the writing felt very undisciplined and at times bloated in terms of Kay's sense of self-importance.

Still it did have its moments including quite a complex plot that actually came together in a satisfactory way even if the final denunciation seemed over in a flash and left me feeling 'is that it?'
Tags: crime fiction, sexual violence, thriller
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