Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?
Published August 10th 2017 by Hodder
I have an admission to make… I have never read a book by Sophie Hannah before, yet she’s been on my radar as an author I thought I’d probably enjoy and I own a couple of her books already. Did You See Melody? was billed somewhat as a departure from her usual style, but with the intriguing blurb and that incredibly summery cover promising heat and tension, I was eager to read this book.
It starts with Cara, fleeing her husband and children for the luxurious spa resort in Arizona for an unknown reason, but clearly in a bit of a state. When she arrives in the middle of the night, exhausted, distressed and disorientated, she is sent to the wrong room. A room already occupied by a man and a strange girl. As Cara settles into the resort, she begins to hear stories of a high profile murder, a young girl called Melody who appeared to be the victim of unloving, cruel parents. But Cara begins to think she may just have seen Melody, but how can she have when Melody is supposed to be dead?
Did You See Melody? begins with a taut and attention grabbing beginning. Sophie Hannah perfectly encapsulates the panic, distress and tension felt by Cara as she flees the country. I was desperate to know what the secret was – why had she left her husband and her children. I’m going to be honest, when it was revealed it felt a bit implausible and a bit of an overreaction on Cara’s part. I’m not convinced with her reasons for being at the resort in the first place and it all felt a bit convenient.
However, the mystery surrounding Melody was fascinating. The story of her disappearance is told mainly in the form of a TV chat show transcript. I found it interesting and terrifying how the case is trialed by media, public perception on the people involved completely influenced by how the brash and slightly obsessed host, Juno, portrays them. It’s shocking, and scarily real, how susceptible we all are to suggestion and propaganda through the media and how they choose to portray someone, no matter how true or factually correct it may or may not be, directly impacts cases such as these. Mud sticks.
Hannah’s writing is undoubtedly gripping throughout, Did You See Melody? is a page turner and I read it in one day, snatching large chunks when I had a moment. It’s snappy, edgy and has a different kind of vibe to the psychological thrillers I’ve been reading recently giving it a fresh, relevant feel. However, I had a feeling of detachment from the story which made me feel conflicted. On the one hand, I couldn’t put it down and found the case of Melody Chappa interesting, while on the other I struggled to like or care for any of the characters – I found a lot of them annoying, particularly the loud and overbearing Tarin, a wealthy and over the top fellow guest who Cara teams up with to solve the mystery. Overall, while I didn’t love it – missing a more emotional involvement with the characters and story and finding some of the plot less than credible -I did like this book. It was a gripping easy read, ideal for those days on a sun lounger while soaking up the sun.
(I read an advance readers copy courtesy of the publisher)