Friday, May 25, 2007

"Hurting Distance"

Sophie Hannah is a bestselling poet, short story writer, and author of two psychological thrillers, Little Face and Hurting Distance.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Hurting Distance and reported the following:
I'm afraid Hurting Distance completely fails the page sixty-nine test! It's a psychological thriller about a woman, Naomi, whose lover Robert disappears. Convinced something terrible's happened to him, and thinking the police aren't taking it seriously enough, Naomi accuses Robert of a terrible and sadistic crime, believing that they will have to look for him urgently if they're convinced he's a psychopath - her plan is to admit she was lying as soon as they find him. The police start investigating, and find evidence that seems to corroborate Naomi's story. But how can that be, when she knows it's not true?

I like crime novels where the mystery/suspense is the main focus, and I love mysteries that are particularly intriguing - not so much 'Who killed so-and-so, and why?', because, let's face it, you can always imagine a range of plausible answers to that question, but 'How can this possibly be happening? What can possibly be the explanation?' That way, psychology starts to assume more importance - readers must focus on the psyches of the individual characters in order to get to grips with what's going on.

Anyway, page 69 of Hurting Distance does not feature Naomi, or any of the main plot! It's about Charlie, the female police protagonist, who is on holiday with her fussy sister, Olivia (though she is about to be dragged back by the Naomi-and-Robert drama)....

Page 69:

‘I mind that it’s not sunny and I mind that it’s colder than it is in London.’ Olivia sat straight-backed on her bar-stool, legs crossed. She looked elegant and disappointed, like a jilted spinster from one of those long, boring films Charlie hated, full of hats and sullied reputations. ‘But there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m certainly not going to sit by an outdoor pool in the pissing rain.’ Her eyes lit up suddenly. ‘Was there anywhere with a nice indoor pool? And a spa? A spa’d be great! I fancy one of those dry floatation treatments.’

Charlie’s heart plummeted. Why couldn’t everything have been perfect, just this one time? Was that too much to ask? No-one was more fun to be with than Olivia, if the conditions were right. ‘I didn’t look,’ she said. ‘But I think it’s unlikely, unless you want to spend a small fortune.’

‘I don’t care about money,’ Olivia was quick to say.

Charlie felt as if there was a coiled spring inside her, one she had to keep pushing down or else it’d leap up and destroy everything. ‘Well, unfortunately, I have to care about money. So unless you want me to look for two separate hotels...’ Olivia was less well off than Charlie. She was a freelance journalist and had a colossal mortgage on a flat in London’s Muswell Hill. Seven years ago she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The operation to remove both ovaries and her womb had been immediate, and had saved her life. Ever since, she’d been throwing money around like the spoiled child of aristocrats. She drove a BMW Z5 and took taxis from one side of London to another as a matter of course. Getting the tube was one of the many things she claimed to have given up for ever, along with compromising, ironing and wrapping presents. Sometimes, when she couldn’t sleep, Charlie worried about her sister’s financial situation. It had to involve a lot of debt – an idea Charlie hated.
Visit Sophie Hannah's website and read the beginning of Hurting Distance.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue