Sophie Hannah is definitely one of those authors that I see around the blogosphere a lot. She writes mysteries, and it seems like everyone has read and enjoyed her books. I’ve had her on my list for quite some time, and started with Little Face, the first in a series that features the same pair of law enforcement characters. However, this just wasn’t a book for me. While I gave it a 3* rating overall for being a decent mystery (except for the parts where it wasn’t), there were just too many things that left me feeling confused, and too many moments of cruelty and bizarre abuse for me to really categorize this as an enjoyable read. I didn’t really care for the two detectives at the center of the mystery, either, finding both of them quite annoying, so I don’t really see myself pursuing this series any further, although if someone out there really loves these books and thinks they get better, I’m open to having my mind changed!!
The basic premise is quite creepy – two weeks ago, Alice had a baby. Today, she’s leaving the baby for the first time. Alice goes out for a bit of a break while her husband, Charlie, watches the baby. Just a couple of hours go by before Alice’s return, but when she comes home she’s convinced that the baby in her home isn’t actually her baby – someone has kidnapped Alice’s baby and left an unknown infant instead.
Pacing in this book is excellent. I never knew whether Alice was reliable or not. The whole situation just seems so bizarre, yet what does Alice have to gain by making up this kind of story? As things began to unwind, I still wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. Like I said, not a bad mystery – my issues were more with characters/actions than they were with plot/pacing. So, spoiler complaints below the cut, and 3* for Little Face.
Okay, this is a spoiler-zone, so don’t read further if you don’t want to know critical plot points/possibly the ending depending on how ranty I get!
First off, the relationship between the two detectives, Simon and Charlotte (aka Charlie). Charlie is Simon’s superior in rank. Charlie is in love with Simon. Charlie continually hits on Simon, on and off the job, despite the fact that Simon has indicated that he is not interested in her in that way. At one point, when Simon and Charlie are investigating a building (i.e. on company time in a physical situation from which Simon cannot leave), Charlie asks Simon if he is a virgin and if that’s why he isn’t interested in her.
I just. Wow. I can’t express how uncomfortable this aspect of the story made me, especially since the implication seemed to be that because Charlie is a woman, it isn’t really that big of a deal/not really sexual harassment. Oh my gosh. Just ugh.
Secondly, when Alice claims that her baby has been stolen, her husband, David, disagrees. That seems reasonable. What doesn’t seem reasonable is that suddenly David begins to abuse Alice – some really gross, sick stuff that he makes her do. He’s consistently cruel, malicious, and creepy. Yet Alice talks about their earlier relationship with warmth and affection, talks about being happy together, etc. etc. It’s impossible for me to believe that they were perfectly happy and normal together, and then all of a sudden David turns into a total psycho who makes Alice kneel on the floor and eat breakfast like a dog, or forces her to sit in a tub of ice cold water and her own urine. And then in the end it’s just – oh, David isn’t really the main villain, he’s just under a lot of stress…?!?!?!?!? WHAT?!
Finally (for now), the whole story doesn’t jive. All of Alice’s parts are told in first person, present tense. Her own thoughts as they are happening. Yet in the end it turns out that Alice has orchestrated the entire thing. The baby is her baby; there was no kidnapping. It’s all an elaborate ploy so that she can “expose” a murderer (done incredibly poorly) and escape the clutches of her evil mother-in-law. Except that means that Alice’s POV sections are a fairy tale. All the feelings that she expresses weren’t her real feelings. She tries to play it off as “she had to be so deep into the deception that it felt real” but sorry, can’t buy that. Sooo weak.
In the end, an overall disappointment. However, it’s a whole series of books I can take off my list without actually reading, so there is a silver lining!