Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher: Hodder & Staughton
Copyright Year: 2011
Review By: Phyllis King and Kimberley Starr
Book Synopsis:
Phyllis King Review

Connie and Kit Bowskill have always wanted to live in Cambridge and, noting that a house at 11 Bentley Grove has a newly erected For Sale sign, Connie logs onto the property website to take a look. It is 1.00 a.m. and, for reasons which will later become apparent, she has waited until Kit is asleep before visiting the website.

She clicks her way through the still photographs and then decides to take the virtual tour. Panning slowly through the house, the camera suddenly reveals a woman lying face down in a pool of blood. It is clear that she is dead.

Horrified, Connie rushes to wake her husband but when he takes a look, there is no dead body, only a clean beige carpet in an ordinary room.

Thus begins this astonishing book. It is a writing tour-de-force, moving backwards and forwards between Connie’s first person chapters, and those written from various third-person points-of-view.

The reader is taken on a journey through the nightmare that is currently Connie’s life. Did she see the body? How could she have seen it when others play the same loop over and over and see nothing untoward?

Providing more details is difficult without giving vital information away. Suffice to say it is an engrossing story with many suspenseful twists and turns. It is well plotted and executed and will hold your interest to the last page.

It must be said, however, that these people – all of them – are a thoroughly unlikeable and particularly self-centred lot. Yes, if I was in trouble and needed a policeman, Simon Waterhouse would be my cop of choice. He is focused, determined and will find the right answer. But I don’t like the chances of his marriage lasting long past the honeymoon he interrupts to solve the crime. Connie’s family are very odd, Simon’s wife, sister and work colleagues are not people with whom you wish to spend time. Even Connie herself, although she has the excuse of experiencing great trauma, is a little too over the top.

Having delivered that warning, I do recommend this book as a jolly good read

Kimbereley Starr Review

Imagine yourself waiting until your partner goes to sleep, then sneaking out of bed. Turning the computer on, browsing to a real estate site that he doesn’t like you to visit, searching for an address he doesn’t want you to know about, and taking a virtual tour through a house that he doesn’t want you to remember. Imagine what you would do if – when the camera reached the sitting room – you saw lying, there on the floor, a woman in a pool of blood. A lot of blood, and a very obviously dying woman…

This is the scenario in which we first meet Connie Bowshill, the main character of Sophie Hannah’s new novel Lasting Damage. Connie is a surprising protagonist – she’s not very likable. Although she might have reason for being suspicious of her husband (some time ago, she found a Cambridge address programmed into his satnav as “home”, although they live in an unappealing small town) she also comes across as weak and somewhat paranoid. When her husband Kit watches the video, there is no body and the carpet is clean. Kit himself seems at once controlling and dripping with too-good-to-be-true affection. Don’t trust him! a reader might think. But like Connie, we can’t quite work out why. After all, it’s Connie herself who seems to indulge in bizarre behaviour.

The novel poses other interesting psychological questions: if someone you love told you often enough that they didn’t write an address on a piece of paper, therefore you must have, is there ever a point at which you might start to believe them?

It’s not giving anything away to say that Lasting Damage becomes somewhat convoluted in the second half. Sophie Hannah has written half a dozen psychological thrillers that seem to start with impossible problems, and to dip into confusion. Her plot is a bit like a ball of wool that a kitten has played with. You have to trust that Hannah – and her police characters including Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, who appear again in this one – will pull it into some sort of shape. It’s an enjoyable read nevertheless and highly recommended, especially fans of the gothic thriller.