Woman With A Secret by Sophie Hannah

Description: She's a wife.

She's a mother.

She isn't who you think she is.

Nicki Clements has secrets, just like anybody else—secrets she keeps from her children, from her husband, from everyone who knows her. Secrets she shares with only one person: A stranger she's never seen. A person whose voice she's never heard.

And then Nicki is arrested for murder. The murder of a man she doesn't know.

As a pair of husband-and-wife detectives investigate her every word, and as the media circle like sharks, all Nicki's secrets are laid bare—illusions and deceptions that she has kept up for years. And even the truth might not be enough to save her. For although Nicki isn't guilty of homicide, she's far from innocent. . . .

Sophie Hannah writes the most wonderful, broken, sometimes despicable characters that are compulsively readable. Woman With A Secret continues that tradition with another flawed character who has truth issues and the quirky detectives trying to figure out a twisty murder.

Hannah has the gift of making you keep turning the pages not just to solve the murder, but to find out what the characters are hiding. What I find unique about her is not her ability to write unlikeable characters, but her ability to fill her pages with nothing but unlikeable characters and still have you keep turning the pages to find out what happens to them.

Woman With a Secret starts when Nicki Clements conspicuously avoids going through a police checkpoint that happens to be in place in front of a murder scene where the words “HE IS NO LESS DEAD” have been left on the wall. Nicki’s involvement, if any, as well as the meaning behind the cryptic message propel the novel forward. Nicki’s habitual lying both hinders and helps the investigation, as the search for her secrets becomes intertwined with unraveling the murder.

Zailer and Waterhouse, the married police officers investigating the crime - only one officially on the case- are an interesting case study in themselves. Neither is particularly likeable, nor are their family and friends, but the dynamic seems to work. There is a certain amount of insight on each of their parts to unwind alibis and uncover motives, but largely it is dogged police work.

A large part of the novel is spent with Nicki and her life of complicated lies. Her secret life, as well as the life of the murder victim, make for a very interesting read. Her most closely guarded secret along with the identity of the murderer are ultimately not that exciting but the journey to them is. Sophie Hannah has a real gift for creating a true mystery. Less in a “whodunit” sense than in a “what the hell is going on here” way. The fun is in the way each revelation makes you question what is happening about a dozen times between the first page and the last. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

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