Sophie Hannah really is all about the dark and the dysfunctional. She specialises in twisted, complicated and frankly unpleasant plots, full of weird people you wouldn’t ever want to meet in real life. And that extends the majority of the police investigating the crimes at the centre of the plot. And The Carrier really is no exception there.
Gaby Struthers is a smart successful business woman and when her flight is delayed back from Dusseldorf, she finds herself sharing a hotel room with Lauren Cookson. Lauren is, to be polite, a little bit dim but she’s also massively highly strung. During one of many rows with Gaby, she blurts something out about an innocent man going to jail for murder. Gaby is intrigued and when she finds out that the murder victim was a woman called Francine Breary and the innocent man is her husband, the only man Gaby has ever loved. And so Gaby’s tightly controlled life goes off the rails as she tries to get to the bottom of who Cookson is and just how she ended up in Dusseldorf with her.
That half of the book is grimly fascinating stuff. What sends it off kilter is that alongside that, there’s a lot of extraneous flannel with the recurring police characters. There are whole chapters devoted to arguments between Charlie, her husband and her sister. It isn’t that interesting and Hannah seems to lose interest with it mid-chapter sometimes. And a strand dealing with the big boss and his daughter isn’t really resolved so much as it’s forgotten about. If the strand involving Charlie’s sister and her affair with one of Charlie’s ex-colleagues were to bite the dust, I wouldn’t shed a tear.
Gaby’s increasingly frantic investigation and the dreary police peeps are interspersed with a series of handwritten letters to Francine, from her husband’s two best friends, with whom they lived. See, Francine had a stroke at 41 and was left with Locked In Syndrome. Tim, the husband, is claiming he suffocated her with a pillow but doesn’t know why. Lauren is claiming he didn’t kill her, someone else did and Tim is covering for them. Between them, the letters and Gaby get to the bottom of exactly what went on the day Francine was killed. Suffice it to say that the denouement is almost unbearably bleak and will haunt you for days. That nobody really gets a happy ever after shouldn’t come as a surprise, really should it? For those reasons, it’s definitely worth reading, but if you skimmed through some of the less interesting bits, nobody would blame you.