I recently finished Sophie Hannah’s suspense novel Little Face. One of my students recommended it; she knows I’m wild for Tana French, and the two of them did an interview together online recently.
Little Face was, ultimately, just okay. Maybe my expectations of the prose were unreasonably high because of the “You like French, you’ll like her,” format of the recommendation that led me to her. And there’s nothing wrong with her prose–it’s very competent–but it was other things that put me off. The central mystery spilled out in a way that I couldn’t buy–the set-up was great, but the outcome didn’t convince me. And the bulk of the novel grapples with these two extremely strained heterosexual relationships that are, at their core, really ugly. Unkindness and systematic humiliation of the weak character by the strong abounds, and I find it hard to take vicarious enjoyment in that particular form of human misery.
There’s a fair amount of darkness and violence in my writing, of course, so it’s always interesting to see what puts me off. It turns out that extended mean scenes are on that list. Even in cases where the victims eventually turn it around, the sense of justice served isn’t satisfying enough to wash the taste of nastiness away.