The Telling Error, by Sophie Hannah

(Hodder, £11.99; ebook, £4.99) 

Sophie Hannah is a writer on a roll. Last September, Agatha Christie’s estate announced it had commissioned her to give Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells their first workout since his creator’s death.

Three months later, her novel The Carrier was named Crime Book of the Year at the National Book Awards. All of which makes her latest outing something of a disappointment—although, in its defence, only a gradual one.

Hannah has built her reputation on murder mysteries that emerge from sharply recognisable modern life, along with the secrets that most of her characters have been carefully guarding. And for much of The Telling Error, this is precisely—and very satisfyingly—what happens. Hannah’s regular cops are in good form too: their private lives sketched in enough to make them feel like proper human beings, but never so much as to intrude on the page-turning action.

The problem, though, is with the denouement—which, by my calculations, requires no fewer than six people to behave in ways that nobody ever would. In the circumstances, you almost end up feeling sorry for Hannah’s chief sleuth Simon Waterhouse, whose closing psychological summary duly comes across as both faintly desperate and a bit silly. 

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