Books: In murder, the tiniest details are important
The Telling Error, Sophie Hannah, Hodder & Stoughton,
Controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy sets out to shock people. And his final act does just that. His wife discovers him bound and gagged in his study. He has been fatally stabbed, a knife has been taped over his mouth and the message 'He is no less dead' has been scrawled on the wall.
When the police begin investigating his death, they discover that there is no shortage of suspects for this crime, including a drug cheat athlete, a rival pundit, a politician and a critically acclaimed novelist – all of whom Blundy has publicly insulted.
Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse is also suspicious of Blundy's wife Hannah who insists that, although she was in their home when Blundy was killed, she didn't hear a thing.
But she does have an intriguing theory. Hannah believes that Damon's murder is somehow linked to her belief that he never truly loved her. When pressed though, Hannah admits that he had always been a model husband – an admission that shocks and confuses his two former wives.
And then there's Nikki Clements, a married mother of two with a seemingly perfect life. Yet, when Nikki is out driving close by Damon's home on the morning of his murder, she goes to extraordinary lengths not to encounter a police officer she has met once before. Nikki is not an innocent woman. She has many secrets, and she is desperate to keep them to herself.
The Telling Error is Sophie Hannah's ninth novel and the latest in her Spilling CID series. Hannah, who is also a poet and children's author, has made a career out of shining a spotlight on the darkest of domestic scenarios.
The writer has said that she tries to start her novels with a really puzzling or apparently impossible situation, and all of her offbeat thrillers are packed with intricate twists and turns. In The Point of Rescue, an adulterous woman is stunned to discover her lover isn't who she thought he was – in fact, he has a missing wife and child. A man confesses to the murder of a woman who isn't dead in The Dead Lie Down while Lasting Damage focuses on a suspicious and paranoid wife.
In The Telling Error, Hannah mixes crime with an examination of relationships, the lies we tell and what privacy means today. This is a clever tale – its twists and turns meant I had to re-read a page or two just to make sure I knew what was going on. But it's worth the effort. Hannah is a challenging storyteller and anything but predictable.
I felt bereft on reaching the final page, then cheered when I learned she has completed the first Hercule Poirot novel since Agatha Christie's death. Hannah has said she can't think of any other writer who taxes the reader so pleasurably.