Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
The US publication has a different title: The Wrong Mother.
Bestselling author Sophie Hannah explores the various sides of motherhood in her third psychological suspense novel.
Sally Thorning, a wife and mother of two small children, has a hectic life running her home and managing her career. One evening, after dinner and the children have been put to bed, she and husband Nick, are watching a news report about a woman who is reported to have killed herself and her daughter. To her shock, Sally realises she knows these people. Sally knows that something is not quite right: the man on the TV screen, Mark Bretherick, reported to be the husband of the dead woman is not him, but an imposter claiming to be him. Her reason for knowing this is because she knows Mark Bretherick - intimately. Revealing what she knows could destroy her marriage. However, this is vital information that the police need to know and Sally has to make a decision, should she contact the police, or should she withhold the information?
This is the third in the Culver Valley series. I have also reviewed Little Face and Hurting Distance, books 1 & 2, respectively.
It is probably clear from my previous reviews of the series that I have not been hugely impressed by them, and yet I have succumbed to their addictive qualities. I am glad that I have (succumbed) because The Point of Rescue is a marked improvement on the other two. This one reads more like a crime mystery and less like a soap opera. Hannah has ditched the story lines that focus heavily on the personal lives of the police officers of Spilling CID and has focused on the crime. At the same time, she offers up snippets of what is going on in the officers' personal lives - just enough to keep the characters well developed and the reader interested. As a result, the Spilling CID come across more like professionals than in previous books.
As usual, the plot is intricate and complex. As alluded to in the publisher's summary (and the title of the US publication), Hannah is exploring motherhood in this book and she does so in a multifaceted way. Gender inequality is a common theme in this series of books, but sexism towards women and misogyny are particularly prominent in this book.
Where crime fiction is concerned, I think there is a danger of ruining a plot when too much is being thrown at it because it becomes less feasible*. This is a problem I come across with all of her books (read to date). I think they would be improved with a 'less is more' approach. She could probably get two crime mysteries out of one of her novels and double the length of the series!
Caution: potential spoiler alert! I think it is fair to say Sophie Hannah's target audience is women, and she has skillfully managed to reel many of us in. I think one of the secrets of the series' success is the extended sub-plot running through all of them, which is about the relationship between Charlie and Simon. In this book the story takes an unexpected turn. Simon is a complex (and fascinating) character. I particularly like that the dynamic of his relationship with Charlie is one that is not typically portrayed in fiction; one that is quite realistic. These books score zero on the fluff-o-metre. There is mutual attraction that is being hampered by a battle between the genders, caused because Charlie is highly educated, in a more senior position and therefore better paid than Simon, and he feels emasculated because of it. Charlie may be completely besotted but she has no intention of stroking his ego. In books 1 & 2 Simon keeps her at arms length and the result is many awkward moments and on-going UST** - for Charlie, not Simon. However, in this novel things change because Charlie has become weakened and vulnerable, causing Simon to see her, and their relationship, in an entirely different light. The sub-plot has been dialed down significantly in this book, and it is a better read because of it (it does not compromise the central plot). Also, it keeps us wanting to know what will happen next.
It was worth reading the first two books in order to get to this point [of rescue] and, of course, I am now reading the next one....
*Despite being compelling viewing, the UK TV Drama Line of Duty is a good example
**Unresolved sexual tension
More Reviews of Culver Valley Series
The Other Half Lives (Book 4)
A Room Swept White (Book 5)