The Telling ErrorThe Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sophie Hannah’s books have always been unusual in that she builds really great psychological mysteries, the main targets for analysis being new sets of suspects. in her books, one spends most of one’s time not with the detectives (whose storyline continues through the series), but with these ever-changing possible baddies. and she builds the mystery so cleverly that figuring out who the evildoer is (and why) can be quite a challenge.

in this book, our main suspect is Nicki Clemens, possible pathological liar and generally weird and often unpleasant woman who is apparently trying very hard to live right and raise her children well, and be a good wife to her entirely bland but very good husband. she gets caught up in a web of traffic cameras and the murder of an equally unpleasant but truth-telling columnist found in the middle of a bizarre crime scene.

others get gradually sucked onto the suspect list–the murderee’s widow and ex-wives; an athlete the columnist picked as a whipping boy; a repellant horror writer; a politician with whom the writer carried on a deeply vituperative, long-running exchange.

the winding around of truth and lies in this book is fascinating–who is lying and why, who is telling an ugly truth, and which is more damaging. it does rather make you wonder whether truth (let alone Truth) deserves the shiny reputation it gets.

in the end though i felt this was not her best book. it’s hard to hang out so long with so many icky people, for one. some of their motivations seemed rather thin. and at the point that Simon, in one of his usual bursts of brilliance, figures it all out (and simultaneously realizes that a civilian is in mortal danger), he just sends Charlie off to pick up the hapless civ so that he can lay out the case for the boys in the shop. like, what?!??!?! no cop of any stripe would send off another into potentially mortal danger without significant backup, even in countries not so in love with guns as mine. let alone his wife.

so… ya, here’s hoping the next of her books returns to her excellent psychologizing and interesting, rather than slime-covered, characters.