Review: Sophie Hannah's second psychological thriller, Hurting Distance, is an intricately plotted novel where the line between criminal and victim (or maybe, more generally, those in the right and those in the wrong) is so blurred it's hard to know which label to assign to each of the principal characters.
Naomi Jenkins is a rape survivor. Three years ago she was raped but never notified the police or told anyone else of her brutal attach. It took this long for her to even be comfortable with a man again. Now she has fallen in love with mild-mannered Robert Haworth, a married man with whom she has met in the same room at a less than desirable motel every Thursday evening from four to seven for the last three months. When he fails to show up at their chosen time, and she doesn't hear from him for three days, she panics and is sure his wife has done something to him. With this story in mind, Naomi goes to the police to report Robert as a missing person. But the police don't appear too anxious to start a search for Robert. When she realizes this she goes back again and tells them of her rape, but this time identifies Robert as the rapist. Now they will not be searching for a missing man, but a rapist. This lie leads Detective Sergeant Charlene "Charlie" Zailer and her team through a tangle of stories, people and places. Some truths are revealed, but many lies are told. Although it is said that people you love are within Hurting Distance, strangers are not. But is this a truth, or is this too a lie?
The intriguing plot of Hurting Distance is overshadowed by how the story is told (Naomi frequently speaks as if someone else is around, though she is alone; or is she?) and in the sometimes lurid descriptions of the characters and their actions. Rape is a dark, terrible crime, and the author handles it sensitively, covering the stages of humiliation, pain, fear, and ultimately recovery but never forgetting. Still, the convoluted direction the narrative often veers makes Hurting Distance a far more difficult, and hence less enjoyable, read than it could, or should, have been.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Hurting Distance.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of Hurting Distance for this review.
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Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $25.00