First line: (from a internet dating site) "Are you looking on here because you're hoping to find something that stands out from all the dull one-line I-want-a-blow-job-in-my-hotel-room-type adverts?"
In Sophie Hannah's ninth Waterhouse and Zailer crime novel, Damon, Blundy, a controversial newspaper columnist, is found murdered in his home office. The scene is peculiar: Blundy's hands and feet were secured; a large knife sharpener is in the floor--used to knock the victim out but not kill him; "HE IS NO LESS DEAD" is painted on the wall in red paint; and a knife is taped to the victim's mouth, the packing tape covering both his mouth and nose causing him to suffocate. Simon Waterhouse is convinced all of these details are a message from the killer, but he just can't figure out what the message is.
Nicki Clements has a dirty little secret. She's managed to hide it from her family for years, but the murder of Blundy--a man she's never met--is about to rock her world in ways she never could have imagined.
Woman with a Secret started out a little disorienting for me as it hopped between an online advertisement, the narrator's perspective, a newspaper article and the crime scene investigation. The novel oscillates between these elements of the story but the very beginning leaves the reader discombobulated. Once the concept starts to meld, however, the story is captivating.
Hannah twists the plot like a pretzel. As soon as the reader feels that he/she has a firm grasp on the players and their roles, a new twist with an additional layer is added to the mix, making the novel that much more addictive.
Simon Waterhouse's quirky doggedness is endearing to everyone except Detective Inspector Giles Proust. But his sharp mind, intuitions and deductions are fascinating. He's not always correct and that helps to make him more believable, but he is always plausible which serves the same purpose.
Hannah's exploration of the psychological nature of her characters and their actions is eerie and gripping. Her ability to take the commonplace--online dating sites, opinionated journalists, unfaithful politicians--and mold it into a horrifically spellbinding scenario is astonishing.
Intelligent, complex and engrossing, The Woman with a Secret will easily steal readers' hours as they lose themselves in the mystery and the mayhem.
Woman with a Secret is available in hardcover from William Morrow (9780062388261) and as an unabridged audio (9780062350763), narrated by David Thorpe and Julia Barrie, from Harper Audio. Also note that this book was previously released in the UK as The Telling Error.
My review today is part of the TLC book tour for Woman with a Secret. Check the schedule to see what other bloggers are saying about this book.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.