I'm a big fan of Sophie Hannah - it's probably true to say I've read everything she's published, including the earlier novels which nobody seems to mention anymore (they're awesome, by the way). So I was very much looking forward to Did You See Melody?
It's a stand-alone novel, i.e. not part of her Culver Valley series (well, I suppose it would be difficult to plonk Culver Valley Police down in a luxury holiday resort in the middle of Arizona, which is where this book takes place). Still, I kind of missed Charlie, Simon, Proust and the rest. Especially Proust, for some reason. I'm not sure what that says about me.
Anyway, instead we have Cara Burrows, a British wife and mother who, amid a personal crisis, has scarpered, alone, to Swallowtail for some thinking time (spending a third of the family's savings in the process). The relaxing holiday she'd hoped for doesn't quite materialise, however, as she unwittingly walks into a mystery when a receptionist accidentally gives her the key for the wrong room in the middle of the night. Is it possible that the young girl she sees is really Melody Chapa, famously murdered by her parents seven years earlier? And is Cara herself now in danger as a result?
Sophie Hannah writes tightly plotted, intelligently written puzzle-box mysteries where intriguing, seemingly inexplicable things occur and have to be gradually unravelled. You need to keep your wits about you as the plots can turn out to be pretty complex. Often, there's deep psychological stuff going on too. Here, because Cara (not being an American) doesn't know about the Melody Chapa murder case, a fair bit of exposition is required, and this is largely done initially via Cara's online research. This works quite well though as I said, you do need to concentrate. Then again, I read most of this while squinting at my Kindle on a sun lounger on holiday, so my powers of concentration may have been impaired.
I loved the descriptions of the super-luxurious holiday resort. (My hotel, while nice enough, wasn't on quite that level. My sun lounger did not, sadly, have a button to summon a waiter with a drink. But a girl can dream.) And I loved, or in some cases loved to hate, some of the characters. Tarin in particular was a delight. As always with Sophie Hannah, there's humour here too, particularly with certain characters, and I laughed out loud at Cara's chlorophyll/chloroform confusion - mainly because it's so very much the sort of thing one might think and then feel a right idiot for doing so. The transcripts of YouTube clips from interviews on a popular "justice" show are appallingly compelling. It seems like where Melody is concerned, everyone has their own agenda.
Melody's character remains rather elusive throughout, with her voice rarely being heard. But maybe that's the point.
All in all another great read from the ever reliable Sophie Hannah.