She's the most famous murder victim in the country.
What if she's not dead?
Did You See Melody? is a different kind of Sophie Hannah novel.
It is a stand alone.
It is pure psychological suspense, with a chilling hook and a killer central mystery.
It combines Sophie’s critically acclaimed writing with a pacy and twisty plot.
Confession time first - this is the first Sophie Hannah book I've read. It's unlikely to be the last. Did You See Melody has a slow paced start and reads more like a family drama than a mystery. Cara Burrows is an English woman who has spent her family's savings on a solo trip to a luxury resort and spa in Arizona. However, instead of the space and tranquility she was hoping to find, she becomes embroiled in a years old murder case after another guest reports seeing Melody Chapa - only Melody's parents are both serving life for her murder.
I read Did You See Melody in little over a day, it's surprisingly lighthearted considering the subject matter, with an intriguing mystery at the heart of the book. It's the female characters though who are the book's main strength; Cara is an interesting lead character, much of the humour in the book comes from her English reserve and awkwardness in the face of American hospitality and positivity. I must admit to finding her reason for leaving her family, albeit even if it was just for a break, a little flimsy but was pleased to see her character's growth as the book progresses. Bonnie Juno, criminal prosecutor tuned television personality is the very essence of dogged and is a memorable character although not at all likeable. Tarrin probably deserves a book of her own, a wisecracking no nonsense florist turned amateur detective might be a little unlikely but she was definitely the stand out character of the book.
I found the secondary characters a bit weaker unfortunately. Cara's husband, Patrick isn't given much to do and the teenagers, Cara's children, Jess and Ollie, and Tarrin's daughter, Zellie felt a little stereotypical. Zellie never really fulfilled her early potential and although she was clearly an intelligent free thinker ultimately came across as a typical eye rolling teen. I was a bit disappointed too with the way certain parts of the story seemed to fizzle out. At one point the story focuses on the past history of the investigating police officers but what could have been an interesting sub-plot never really went anywhere.
The main story though is fascinating, I was completely intrigued by the premise of a murder that may not have been a murder, and the questions about who is guilty of what kept me turning the pages, eager to discover the truth. It is a book that probably requires its readers to accept a few unlikely coincidences, close scrutiny would likely stretch credibility a bit. However, it's still a gripping story with some excellent twists. Much of the story of Melody's disappearance is told through television transcripts and while arguably this interrupted the pace somewhat, I rather enjoyed the drip feeding revealing of the past. I have conflicting feelings about the conclusion to the book and suspect it will divide opinions. It is undoubtedly a truly disturbing twist but I wish it could have been explored a little further. While I can appreciate an open ending this just felt a tiny bit unsatisfying but I am nit-picking here as it definitely made me gasp! Overall there really was much to enjoy about Did You See Melody and I think it will be a deservedly popular holiday read later this summer.
My thanks to the publishers for my copy, received through Netgalley in return for my honest review.
Did You See Melody will be published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th August 2017.
Sophie Hannah is on Twitter as @sophiehannahCB1 and Hodder & Stoughton as @hodderbooks. See #ISawMelody for more reviews and news about the book.