Review: The Other Half Lives

Working my way through last week´s library loot pile, I decided to start with the thriller on top, Sophie Hannah´s The Other Half Lives.

This thriller is actually the fourth book in a series that starts with The Little Face. I had no idea that this wasn´t a stand-alone when I picked the book up, however, I had no problems reading this one first. There are mentions of a history and certain incidents in the police officers´ past but they are mentioned when relevant and the story, that is the mystery itself, stands on its own.


Ruth Bussey knows what it means to be in the wrong – and to be wronged. She once did something she regrets, and was punished excessively for it. Now Ruth is trying to rebuild her life and has found a love she doesn’t believe she deserves. Aidan Seed is a passionate, intense man who has also been damaged by his past. Desperate to connect with the woman he loves, he confides his secret: he killed a woman called Mary Trelease.Through her shock, Ruth recognises the name. And when she’s realised why it’s familiar, her fear and revulsion deepen. The Mary Trelease that Ruth knows is very much alive… (Fantastic Fiction)

The summary on the back was enough to get me to read my first real thriller in a while. Usually the mystery is a murder that has been committed at the beginning of the story, but in this book someone confesses to a murder that can seemingly not have happened as the victim is still alive and well. Intriguing, isn´t it? I certainly was. Hannah keeps up the suspense till the last page, making this thriller a real page-turner, even though it is over 500 pages long.

The narrative is told from the third person but jumps around between the characters so that we get just enough sense of a character to feel that he has been misjudged by the other characters. The police detectives are not introduced in great detail, but obviously that´s because of the series thing. I still got a good understanding of what Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse are like- some of the most difficult und unsympathetic characters I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Surprisingly the book works very well without their being likable. Charlie and Simon are both at odds or actually at war with themselves, the rest of the world and each other. I didn´t actually like the rest of the characters much better, Mary was interesting and Ruth became more likable the more the story progressed, but overall I´m surprised that I stil enjoyed the thriller very much.

What I most enjoyed apart from the unusual story and great twist, was Hannah´s very literary writing style. Here are some of my favorite passages:

Why do so many people believe that words have an innate authority?” (8)

I rememer being struck by his anger, his apparent determination to make my brain a replica of his, containing the same information.” (88)

People who have made no serious mistakes in their lives might not understand this, but once you´ve done something wrong and suffered as a result, good behaviour takes on the utmost importance.” (134)

`I don´t disapprove of lying. I don´t think there´s anything wrong with it if there´s an unreasonable constraint in your life stopping you being the person you want to be.´” (175)

When your world falls apart and everything´s ruined, you lose part of yourself. Not all, inconveniently. One half, the best half, dies. The other half lives.´” (268)

I found it very interesting how Hannah depicts trauma and guilt in her characters, the different ways in which they are weighted down by it, and how much it shapes their lives.

Go visit Novel Insights to be convinced of the second book in this series, Hurting Distance and to read her review of The Other Half Lives.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I´ll add a link.

16 thoughts on “Review: The Other Half Lives

  1. I have never read a book about trauma, but if I had to choose one, it would definitely be this!

  2. I don’t generally read thrillers, but someone confessing to a murder when the victim is still alive sounds really intriguing.

  3. I loved Sophie Hannah’s first two books, but haven’t read this one yet. It is good to know that you don’t feel you missed out on anything by reading this first. I think the back-story of the police is quite a small thread. I recommend you try Little face next – I’m sure you’ll love it.

  4. Nice review! The story looks really interesting! I like reading the occasional thriller and Sophie Hannah looks like an exciting new find! Thanks for writing about this book 🙂

  5. I’m glad this worked well even though it wasn’t a stand-alone. It always worries me to pick up a sequel or a mid book in a series by accident! I like what you said about trauma and guilt. I haven’t read many thrillers (yet), but I think the ones that go for psychological exploration of the characters are the ones I like best.

    1. Psychological thrillers are the best 🙂 And the writing in this one was also great so I think it might appeal to people who don´t really read thrillers. This one had a very “literary” feel to it.

  6. I’m glad reading your first Sophie Hannah went well especially as you said you don’t really read thrillers. This book actually sounds really intriguing may have to look out for this series, although I’d have to start at the beginning though lol I like things in order.

    1. I had a thriller phase when I was about 17 and since then I´ve never really been very interested in the genre, the characters often come across as very generic. But I really liked this one. I also prefer reading in order but the cover description of this book semed to assume everyone knew it was part of a series 🙂

  7. I forgot to add one more thing. It is nice to see that you are reading the Atlantic Books Crime Classics edition of ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ now 🙂 I got a couple of books from this edition recently – one of them was Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ – I was surprised that it is listed under ‘Crime Classics’! Looking forward to reading your review of it.

    1. I´m glad my library has this edition because I wasn´t aware of the crime classics series. Bleak House, really? Might have to give it another shot! 🙂 I´m loving Lady Audley´s Secret so far, will have to look at what other titles they´ve got in their series.

    1. Great, I´ve linked to your reviews! I can see why you´re a devotee 🙂
      I´m really curious about Little Face now, need to get it soon!

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