Book review: Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah, the queen of psychological suspense, reigns supreme in her latest taut and terrifying chiller-thriller.

By Pam Norfolk
Friday, 4th March 2011, 6:00 am

Lasting Damage, a dark and disturbing story that positively hums with menace, sees Hannah on tantalising top form just as ITV snap up screen adaptations of her earlier novels, starting with The Point of Rescue later this month.

Data management consultant Connie Bowskill knows she’s going to be, where and why becomes clear as we join her on a terrifying journey into her fragile mind, her uncertain life and her impending death.

A week earlier she had crept out of bed in the early hours to log onto a property website in search of one particular house in Cambridge. She knew it was for sale because she had seen an estate agent’s board in the front garden only six hours earlier.

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It’s a house, we gather, that Connie knows very well – and yet not at all – and seeing it on her screen made her feel like she had invited the enemy into her home.

Keen to view the inside of 11 Bentley Grove and to put her uneasy mind at rest, she clicked on the ‘Virtual Tour’ button and found herself looking at a scene from a nightmare - a woman lying face down in a huge, dark pool of blood in the lounge.

She stumbled screaming and shouting into the bedroom to fetch her husband, Kit, to take a look but when he got to the screen, he didn’t see a dead body, just a pristine beige carpet in an ordinary room.

There were two things she could do. She could try to forget it had ever happened and talk herself into believing that the horrific scene only existed in her mind, or ring the police.

More precisely, she wanted to talk to DC Simon Waterhouse, the engaging and enigmatic star of Hannah’s last six novels.

Newly married to female Police Sergeant Charlie Zailer, he’s battling personal demons of his own and returns home aware that his honeymoon was not quite the paradise that it should have been.

As the narrative unfolds, we begin to realise that the picture on Connie’s computer screen is just one of many bizarre incidents that have been haunting her life and threatening her sanity for months.

Emotionally vulnerable, obsessive and increasingly erratic, Connie’s thoughts and decisions present a series of mind-blowing conundrums for the she insane, is there method to her seeming madness and can there be a rational explanation to the spine-chilling events?

Hannah is one of Britain’s most intelligent and thrilling writers. Her modern-day gothic novels are clever, complex and devilishly plotted with outrageous twists and turns that are guaranteed to confound even the smartest of readers.

Expect the unexpected right up to the very last page.

(Hodder & Stoughton, hardback, £12.99)