Book review: The Telling Error

Friday, March 21, 2014 Permalink

Sophie Hannah’s latest release is unbelievably timely. Over recent months here in Australia I’ve been listening to shock jocks and reading columnists ranting about all sorts of things they can’t possibly believe. And – in an increasingly online and interactive world – thought bubbles in the form of tweets and online comments become powerful and destructive.

Nicki Clements is on her second trip to her children’s school one day when she recognises a police officer who once saw her at her worst. Her actions to avoid further embarrassment set off a series of events which have the potential to ruin her life.

They start by bringing her to the attention of police investigating the murder of a newspaper columnist whose vicious diatribes scored him a slew of enemies. The fact that she was once a regular defender of his work causes the police to be even more suspicious.

Nicki admits herself, she has a long history of untruths and – though usually quite adept at the art of lying – finds herself struggling to explain her actions. The fact that she has a secret life which has, on occasions overtaken her reality, places her in more trouble.


Although the police find Nicki’s obvious lies concerning, they have no shortages of suspects in the death of Damon Blundy. Athletes, politicians, authors, other columnists, a wife and two ex-wives are thrown into the mix. And then there’s the dichotomy of Blundy himself. Tyrannical in his writing and first two marriages, but inexplicably kind to his current wife – though even she senses he’s playing the role of doting husband, rather than being his true self.

Most baffling to the police are the circumstances of Blundy’s death. Struck unconscious, bound and gagged, a newly-sharpened knife ‘taped’ to his face before being bludgeoned. There’s no blood but writing on the wall in red paint, “He is no less dead.”

There’s a lot at play in The Telling Error.¬†Initially we’re in Nicki’s shoes and slip back into her mind every so often so we get a clear picture of her thoughts, memories and secrets. We also get to experience the investigation, particularly through the eyes of husband and wife team, DC Simon Waterhouse and Sergeant Charlie Zailer.

I really enjoyed this latest offering from Sophie Hannah. The theme and content were particularly relevant and well… just a touch scary (in a confronting sense for those of us spending time online: writing and reading blogs and social media). There were also enough protagonists and suspects to keep us guessing throughout.

The Telling Error published by Hodder & Staughton UK / Hachette Australia will be available from 8 April 2014.

I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher for review purposes.

PS. I’m flogging my blog (sans comments as usual for my book reviews) With Some Grace today.

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