This latest release by Sophie Hannah reminded me of my cozy fiction days. In many ways, our lead character Cara and another resort guest (Tarin) are Miss Marplesque characters. Though perhaps more like Agatha Raisin. Or Phrynne Fisher (‘Lady Detective’).
I must admit, I was rather taken with Tarin (and Zellie) Fry in particular, and wouldn’t mind meeting them again. I suspect Cara’s story is done, but Tarin would hold some allure for future books in a series. (Akin perhaps to Mary Higgins Clark’s lottery winners, Alvirah and Willy Meehan, who often feature – even in secondary roles – in her novels.)
Did You See Melody?
by Sophie Hannah
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
on August 24th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1444776134, 9781444776133
Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can't afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied - by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist - but Cara's fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can't possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn't know what to trust: everything she's read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?
I really liked Cara. It’s hard not to be drawn to her as we’re in her head and Hannah’s writing in first person so we’re there with Cara every step of the way. I did think her reason for running away from her family was a little anticlimactic, but that’s just me. Who am I to judge another person’s over-reaction?! Either way, she chose pretty well, running from England to the fancy resort in Arizona. I don’t go away much nowadays but was mightily impressed by the bells and whistles on offer for guests and might have initially suffered a bit of holiday resort envy.
Meanwhile… Cara kinda stumbles across a mystery to be solved. It’s one she wouldn’t even be aware of if a nutty old lady hadn’t asked her, “Did You See Melody?”
It intrigues Cara and she finds herself unable to back away from the mystery… encouraged by fellow resort guests Tarin and Zellie Fry.
Like, Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber, which I just read and reviewed, we don’t actually go back in time and we’re not privy to events in the lead-up to the disappearance of Melody Chapa. Rather (like Are You Sleeping and its podcasts) Cara reads articles and posts about the mystery in order to learn more about the case which gripped the country seven years earlier.
In some ways Cara’s involvement (and the ensuing events) is a bit akin to a comedy of errors, but she’s put at risk nonetheless. And ultimately we’re given answers.
I’m not entirely sure I was convinced by all elements of this plot’s feasibility – not of the original case – but more what’s happened since and how it plays out now. There is – however – an interesting twist when we least expect it and I had to fight my control freak-like nature to deal with the lack of COMPLETE closure I would have preferred.
As I said, although I liked Cara I really enjoyed the eccentric characters of Tarin and Zellie, initially labelled Badass Mom and Highbrow Daughter by Cara before they meet. Tarin’s a florist, incredibly savvy and rather dogged, so would be an excellent character for future series. And her dismissive and eye-rolling daughter, Zellie is the perfect foil to her steamroller-like demeanour.
Despite my issues re the believability of some elements of the plot I enjoyed this book by Sophie Hannah and think it’ll be a popular, particularly with those looking for cozy mysteries. I know Hannah recently revisited Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot in Closed Casket and I think she does a great job of creating entertaining (if inadvertent) female detectives in this outing.
Did You See Melody by Sophie Hannah will be published in Australia by Hachette and available from 24 October 2017.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.