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Books 27-28: The Other Half Lives and The Fallen Angel

Book 27: The Other Half Lives (Spilling CID #4) .
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2009.
Genre: Crime. Police Procedural. Psychological Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 560 pages.

"When your world falls apart and everything is ruined, you lose part of yourself...One half, the best half, dies. The other half lives." - Mary Trelease, The Other Half Lives.

Another complex, convoluted thriller from Sophie Hannah that begins with a confession of a murder that did not take place. During a December weekend trip to London Ruth Bussey and her boyfriend Aidan Seed have decided to share hidden details of their lives before becoming more intimate. Ruth intends to tell him about a traumatic event in her past but she hesitates and actually says very little. Then Aidan makes the shocking confession that years ago he had killed a woman named Mary Trelease.

The narrative moves forward a few months to the end of February when Ruth approaches Charlie Zailer. Ruth shares this information with Charlie hoping that the police will be able to convince Aidan that he is wrong. Ruth knows that Mary, a rather reclusive and 'difficult' artist, is alive and well. Beyond this there is really no way to summarize the story other to say that Hannah examines the lives of three damaged women (Ruth, Charlie and Mary) and in doing so enters quite dark and disturbing territory.

As with all of Sophie Hannah's novels I found this a very compelling and satisfying read; one very hard to pull myself away from. Again, I had no idea where the plot was heading with all the twists and turns. A very satisfying crime thriller. In the USA this was published in 2010 as The Dead Lie Down.

Book 28: The Fallen Angel (Nic Costa #9).
Author: David Hewson, 2011.
Genre: Crime. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 400 pages.

August in Rome and Nic Costa is out for the evening with a friend when the quiet night is shattered by a scream. Responding, Nic finds a teenage girl, covered in blood, and the body of a man lying dead in the Via Beatrice Cenci. British academic Malise Gabriel had stepped out for a cigarette onto some scaffolding outside the apartment his family was renting and it had given way, leading him to fall to his death.

At first it seems to be a straightforward accident but some aspects do not add up. In addition, Malise's wife Cecilia, his daughter Mina and troubled son Robert appear to be keeping vital information hidden from the investigators. Nic is especially concerned by Mina Gabriel's obsession with Beatrice Cenci, a young noblewoman who had been beheaded in 1599 accused of murdering her father, who had sexually abused her. Could there be an echo of the past in this death in the present?

Hewson confidently weaves history and art into this intricate and intelligent novel. In this case he has drawn on the real-life tragedy of Beatrice Cenci, which has inspired artists, writers and poets and generated much public sympathy. As in the novel the anniversary of her execution is still commemorated according to Hewson's closing notes.

This novel held my attention from its dramatic opening to the final pages. I have grown to love these characters and very glad that I read the series in order seeing how events over time have changed them. I know I shall be very sad if this turns out to be the last in the series now that David Hewson's attention is elsewhere with the highly anticipated novels based on the Danish TV series, 'The Killing'. Still, I felt this was one of the best in the series, so if proves a swan song for Nic and his pals, then it is quite a memorable one.

Beatrice Cenci: the true story behind 'The Fallen Angel' - David Hewson's blog entry.
Tags: crime fiction, police drama, sexual violence, thriller
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