Woman with a Secret, Sophie Hannah’s
latest book, delves into the online world. Parts of the story
are told through email correspondence, gossip columnist’s
entries, the main character’s narration, and a police
investigation. The deception, lies and secrets are what make
up a great deal of this novel.
The best description of the story comes from country singer
Brad Paisley’s lyrics to the song Online, “I'm
a sci-fi fanatic. Mild asthmatic. Never been to 2nd base.
But there's a whole another me. That you need to see. Go check
out Myspace… I'm so much cooler online.” The main
character, Nicki Clements, through her on-line life portrays
herself as someone different than she actually is. She leads
a double life: on the surface respectable, while on-line just
the opposite with her unsavory Internet connections. The plot
has Nicki, a stay at home mom, repeatedly engaging in reckless
behavior. Although she lives a comfortable existence, she
is not satisfied with it. Nicki is driven to live on the edge,
exchanging clandestine and lustful emails with men who share
her fondness for the thrill of the forbidden. One of those
she corresponded with is the well-known journalist Damon Blundy,
found murdered in a bizarre manner. This is when Hannah’s
main characters, detectives Simon Waterhouse, Charlotte (Charlie)
Zailer, and the rest of the team enter the story. Through
their investigation, they suspect Nicki of being the killer.
The rest of the story has the police trying to find evidence
that will lead them to the murderer.
Nicki is nothing like the protagonist of Hannah’s last
novel. The author noted, “Gabby, was an admirable character
while Nicki is a flawed character who has desperate, ridiculous
behavior with a life based on lies. Her parents always made
her feel bad, naughty, and excessively punitive. She is not
strong willed like Gabby. But I am hoping that a flawed character
can be sympathetic.”
Unfortunately, while readers rooted for Gabby, they will have
a hard time doing so with Nicki. She is high-strung, self-centered,
and seems incapable of telling the truth for twenty-four hours
at a stretch. Her attitude can best be summed up from a quote
in the book, “Being bad and getting away with it; there’s
no feeling like it.”
Woman with a Secret has compelling themes of Internet bullying,
hypocritical politicians, and a dysfunctional relationship.
As with all her books, Hannah allows readers to get into the
thoughts of the protagonist and the police, by having each
alternately narrate the chapters.
The author also gave a heads up about her next books. In May,
a stand-alone will be released about a woman who moves her
family from London to Devon. She is faced with someone wanting
to kill her family and persecuting them with menacing experiences.
In the summer, The Narrow Bed, a Simon and Charlie
novel, will be released. Its plot has a serial killer murdering
best friends. The protagonist is a comedian a la Joan Rivers
who is prickly, contrary and says deliberately annoying comments.
In both books, the main character is a heroine who has a strong
willed personality and will aggressively pursue justice.