Book Review: THE CRADLE IN THE GRAVE by Sophie Hannah

Originally reviewed for Shelf Awareness, printed here with permission.

TV producer Fliss Benson, who specializes in what she calls “fluff stuff,” is suddenly put in charge of a documentary about three mothers wrongly incarcerated for the murders of their babies. Fliss has deep personal reasons for not wanting the job, but one of the women insists she’ll only tell her side of the story to Fliss. Then one of the other mothers is found shot to death and another is attacked at knifepoint, both left with cards on their bodies containing a strange series of numbers. When the police discover Fliss was sent an identical card, they suggest she halts production on the documentary, but she believes getting to the truth might prevent more people, including herself, from getting killed.

This is the fifth novel to feature Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse and former Detective Sergeant Charlie Zeiler but the case stands alone. It’s a sad one of babies dying in their cribs, on their own or maybe not, so the quirky characters provide much needed levity. Fliss makes observations about “men at the bar who look likely to have chloroform-soaked hankies in their pockets,” and a detective admits that running “was something he’d considered taking up, before deciding he couldn’t be bothered.”

Hannah constantly keeps readers guessing and challenging our assumptions about the guilt of all involved, including the vilified doctor whose expert testimony sent the mothers to prison. The ending leaves one question without a definitive answer, but sometimes the truth is simply whatever we perceive it to be.

Nerd verdict: A complex psychological thriller Cradled in humor



  • Reply
    September 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Now that my “baby” is in college, maybe I can start reading books like this again…maybe. If you say it’s okay, I can give it a shot!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I like those turns of phrase you highlighted. Adding to the stack.

    Still looking for something really edgy these days. Anything on the horizon you could recommend?

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