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Book Review: A Voice in the Night by Sarah Hawthorn, Transit Lounge

An uneven thriller; enjoyable but not without flaws

This mystery novel opens dramatically in New York with the devastating loss of Lucie’s lover on the day the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were destroyed. He was a man about to leave his wife and son and marry her – a man who still fills her with longing.

Twenty years later, Lucie is a senior solicitor at a prestigious London law firm. She has a demanding boss whose overt advances she resists. She is friendly with the firm’s receptionist but otherwise has little to do with her colleagues; she is much more interested in her love life than in her work. 

But Lucie’s life is thrown into turmoil when she starts to receive gifts in the mail – gifts so personal and specific they could only have come from her long-dead lover. Has he been alive all this time? And if so, why is he only resurfacing now?

So far, so good: this has all the makings of a good thriller. But for such a novel to work, the writing must be sufficiently strong and compelling to prompt a sustained suspension of disbelief; readers must be enticed to take a leap of ‘poetic faith’, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge put it. Even an unlikely storyline must still feel plausible and an abundance of coincidences must at least be conceivable. Sometimes, pacing and momentum can counter shortcomings in these areas; a reader can overlook a plot hole or one too many coincidences if they’re so invested in the story or the characters that they can’t stop turning the pages. But A Voice in the Night fails on these counts, though to relate chapter and verse regarding these failings is not possible without risking spoilers. 

That said, A Voice in the Night does contain some enjoyable passages, including an amusing love scene:

He blinked. ‘Hadn’t you noticed? You’re still in your apron. Lovely smell from the kitchen, by the way.’

‘Oh gosh, so I am.’ Lucie undid the apron’s tie, whipped it over her head, and placed one booted foot on his knee. Maybe leather was more his thing, particularly when made into shoes. ‘Unzip me.’

‘You’re not wearing anything.’

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake are you being deliberately obtuse? Doesn’t seeing me naked, behaving like a French parlourmaid, turn you on?’

‘Not really. I prefer you in proper clothes, not dress-ups.’

The plot takes some interesting twists and turns on the way to its dramatic denouement. Perhaps, for a more tolerant reader than this reviewer, it could be a pleasant enough read. But in a market saturated with good thrillers, this one could easily be missed.

A Voice in the Night by Sarah Hawthorn
Publisher: Transit Lounge
ISBN: 9781925760705
Format: Paper back
Pages: 288pp
Release date: 1 July 2021
RRP: $29.99

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog humblecomment.info