Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Sophie Hannah, a poet and Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, is an internationally recognized best-selling author of psychological crime fiction. Among her works are the Waterhouse and Zailer novels, two of which featured in the TV series Case Sensitive, as well as two new Hercule Poirot novels, The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket published in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Her latest novel, Did you see Melody, takes inspiration from a personal incident in Agatha Christie’s own life where the main character, Cara Burrows, whose perspective is taken in the novel, is unable to cope at home so flies from the UK to spend time in a luxurious hotel complex in Arizona USA, leaving a note for her family that she will return home on 24th October.
It is here that Cara becomes embroiled in an incident involving a missing child, presumed dead, harking back to the well – publicized real-life drama in 2007 of missing child Madeline Mc Cann.
I felt that the characters in this book were either insipid, negative or over the top. Cara Burrows flees from her home when she believes none of her family members ever consider her point of view, triggered when she asks her husband and teenage children how they feel about her unexpected impending pregnancy. She lacks confidence to take control of her life so doesn’t know what to do when on her arrival at Swallowtail Resort in Arizona, she is accidentally given the key to a room which on entering she discovers is already occupied by a man and young girl. She is upgraded to another accommodation but a passing comment by an older woman, who others believe is deranged, has Cara wondering.
Knowing nothing about the Melody Chapa case her curiosity leads her into research where she discovers that the missing child Melody Chapa was presumed dead and her parents were imprisoned for her murder.
In contrast to the personality of Cara, Bonnie Juno, a former prosecutor and now bold as brass host of the TV program Justice with Bonnie, loves to be in charge and appears to have been obsessed with the Chapa case influencing public opinion resulting in the parents’ conviction.
Another guest at the resort, who Cara initially thinks of as “Badass Mom” is strong, pushy, incredibly savvy and becomes very dogged when Cara goes missing. She is at the resort with her equally eccentric daughter, Zellie.
Of the two policemen who eventually come to investigate, one is overly confident, arrogant and corrupt while the other is apathetic putting in an appearance so he can draw his pay.
The story line was interesting, though a little drawn out, and followed Cara’s search to discover if she really did see Melody Chapa on her first night at Swallowtail Resort. The reader is treated to some of the contrasts between UK and US customs and details through more formally worded transcripts from interviews from the TV show and a script supposedly written by the missing girl. At the end actions drawing all the clues together is swift with a twist at the end that leaves the reader doubting what s/he has read.
It took me a while to get into this story but once I had finished it I felt that it all hung together well. At least Cara Burrows had developed some spine as she returned to her family.
By Sophie Hannah