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Guest Review: The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah

It’s well-known that books generally prioritise one of three main elements: plot, character or writing. Plot is most certainly king in Sophie Hannah’s latest psychological thriller, The Point of Rescue. And this makes the book a little tricky to review – it would be all too easy to litter any analysis of this novel with spoilers, because, the point of the story is that nothing is as it seems. To summarise, Sally Thorning is watching the news with her husband when she hears that a man called Mark Bretherick has just lost his wife and daughter. Everything about the family is horribly familiar to Sally: the year before, desperate for a break from her young children and hectic job, she secretly booked herself into a remote hotel for a week. While she was there, she met and had an intense affair with Mark Bretherick. However, despite the fact that all the details are the same: his job, his wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy, the picture on the news is of a different man completely. So who was the man she met? And why are Lucy and Geraldine now dead?

It’s an intriguing premise, and like many who read thrillers regularly, I began guessing possible outcomes before I’d even got past the first chapter. But I didn’t stand a chance. Sophie throws so many twists and turns into the mix that, by the end, my head was spinning. In a good way.

Sophie’s writing is uncomplicated and lucid, and doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is important when your brain is busily engaged trying to figure out what’s going on. One of the most successful aspects of the novel is the structure: alternating chapters written from different characters’ POVs, using different tenses and mediums, drip-feeding clues and red herrings and keeping carefully considered control on what the reader does and doesn’t know. For example, one of the threads consists entirely of diary entries written by Geraldine before her death. These chapters are particularly chilling but add a psychological depth that would be harder to create using a more conventional method. There’s also light relief in the form of the colourful police investigating the deaths: we revisit Sergeant Charlie Zailer and the object of her affection, the strangely reluctant DC Simon Waterhouse, both featured in Sophie’s other crime novels. Their ‘on-off, will-they-won’t-they?’ story provides welcome moments of respite between the more harrowing scenes.

And, as for the resolution…Sophie Hannah’s mind must be something of a modern marvel: she plots with such incredible intricacy and foresight that when the ends all tied themselves together so neatly, I gasped with the cleverness of it all. I’d hesitate to describe this book as light reading: take it to the beach by all means, but it’s not one you’ll be able to enjoy under the influence of a cocktail. It’s a book that needs – and luckily deserves – to be read twice.

If I had any criticisms, it would be that, although Sophie’s police cast are especially well-drawn and entertaining, I felt the villain of the piece was a little murky in his authenticity and motives when finally exposed. Also, one of the red herrings – regarding a character’s identity (can’t say more without spoiling) felt a little too red-herringish. I could make a joke about it smelling a bit fishy… Suffice to say, to me, it felt a teeny bit contrived.

But these are minor quibbles, and don’t detract from Sophie’s great achievement: that despite occasionally leaving me completely baffled, the book never became tedious. I never wanted to throw it across the room, or give up on it. Instead, she left me desperate to know what would happen, and I kept turning those pages, even though reading it at times was a little exhausting.

The Point of Rescue is a huge, complicated, jigsaw-puzzle of a novel. But, as the final piece slotted into place, there was one thing I was sure of: the effort was worthwhile.

Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN-13: 978-0340933107. 464 pages. £12.99. Hardback. The paperback was released this week.

Many thanks for the Guest Review by writer, Charlotte Duckworth.

11 comments on “Guest Review: The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah

  1. Eve
    August 9, 2008

    Well that one’s just been put in my Amazon basket!

    What a brilliant review Charlotte, so enticing. You’ve made me desperate to know what it’s all about. It sounds like the kind of book you can’t put down once you start.

    I’m presuming, (I haven’t read any of Sophie Hannah’s other books) that I can read this as a stand alone title? Or would I be missing something not knowing who the police characters are?

    Maybe I should just start at the beginning…

    Thank you, hugely intriguing review :)

  2. rosyb
    August 9, 2008

    You really managed the challenge of giving a sense of the twists and turns of the book without giving it away really quite masterfully!

    I am getting the impression that this is a real keep-you-guessing play-with-your-mind kind of book. Tell me, Charlotte, how does this relate to other thrillers – is this a very disturbing and violent read or more of a twisting puzzle kind of thriller – or both? (Don’t say if that’s going to give too much away.)

  3. Charlotte
    August 9, 2008

    Eve – yes you definitely could read this as a stand-alone book, but to be honest, her other two novels: Little Face and Hurting Distance are equally good, and I reckon more than worth reading first. The police saga is a really clever addition to the story I think: at first it annoyed me because I wanted to get on with the main thrust of the novel but then I started to get sucked into it too, and it gave the book more depth.

    I would start at the beginning, to be honest! They’re fab books.

    Rosy – glad you liked the review! You’re right, it really does keep you guessing. I ended up feeling a bit thick! It was so hard to know what was coming next – I honestly don’t know how she does it. With regards to other thrillers, I would say they aren’t particularly violent, but very sinister. In Hurting Distance, there’s a huge theme running through which I found *very* disturbing, whereas the violence in the others isn’t so implicit. Not to say they don’t have their fair share of grisly moments, but the point of the books is more the sort of sinister suspense they leave you in – more the psychological element rather than the actual violence.

  4. Jackie
    August 9, 2008

    Very nice review, as Rosy said, you give us an idea of the suspense without giving anything away, that is tricky to do, but you pulled it off! This sounds much more complex and emotionally involving that many thrillers, which would make a nice change from the action and gunplay of some of that genre.
    I hope that we see more reviews from you, Ms. Duckworth, this was well done.

  5. Lisa
    August 11, 2008

    Lovely review. Sounds like a very clever and intense thriller. I think, like Eve, I’d probably be tempted to start at the beginning of the series and work up to this one. Many thanks.

  6. Ann Darnton (Table Talk)
    August 12, 2008

    I agree, you ought to read the first two books before coming to this, if only so that you understand the situation between the police personnel but even more so because they are very good books. One of the things tat I found most interesting about ‘The Point of Rescue’ was the way in which it explored the whole question of translation and what is lost and altered during the process in many different spheres. As you say, It’s hard to discuss anything in too much detail without giving important facts away, but this was what fascinated me the most.

  7. Poppy
    August 13, 2008

    Great review – sounds intriguing! I would definitely go and buy this now, or maybe, as suggested, start with her earlier books.
    px

  8. Anne Brooke
    August 15, 2008

    Have just started this – without having read any of the others – and am enjoying it, though a little irritated with Charlie & Simon. They seem quite lightly sketched thus far, but suspect that’s because the author is relying on the assumption that I will have read the former ones?

    Anyway, it’s certainly interesting.

    A
    xxx

  9. Charlotta
    August 17, 2008

    Hi Anne, glad you’re enjoying it – you’re right, I expect Charlie & Simon are a bit annoying/shallow if you don’t know their backstory, but I hope this doesn’t affect your reading of it too much. Would be interested to hear what you make of it as a standalone book! x

  10. Pingback: The Book of Everybody’s Secrets by Sophie Hannah « Vulpes Libris

  11. Pingback: The Other Half Lives by Sophie Hannah – where I’m with the half that died … « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on August 9, 2008 by in Fiction: thriller and tagged , .

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