Out of a Clear Sky by Sally Hinchcliffe
|Out of a Clear Sky by Sally Hinchcliffe|
|Reviewer: Ruth Price|
|Summary: This is a flawed thriller, but nevertheless worth reading for its introverted heroine. The standard of writing, if not the plot, is exceptional.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 300||Date: February 2009|
|Publisher: Pan Books|
After a painful breakup, Manda Brooks takes refuge in her hobby of bird-watching, but finds herself the target of a stalker. Manda is watched, tracked and painstakingly observed, straining her nerves to breaking point.
While the publishers appear to have marketed this novel as a thriller, I feel it fails in this respect. I admit when I read a thriller or similar crime fiction, I immediately try to guess 'whodunnit' and in a novel with very few characters, it was obvious quite quickly who was stalking Manda Brooks, although she remains curiously oblivious. Other plot 'climaxes' are similarly predictable.
However, there is much to enjoy in this first novel by Sally Hinchcliffe; I liked the quiet, introverted heroine Manda, troubled by guilt about her family past, vulnerable after her long-term relationship ends and she becomes an outsider once more. Manda's character, background and relationships are well-drawn, her motives and actions are usually plausible and by the final page I felt I knew her well, and thought about her afterwards. Sally Hinchcliffe has fine writing skills, her language is lush and engaging, her detailed descriptions of birds (Manda is an obsessive birdwatcher) elegantly written. Each chapter is named after a bird; in the chapter called Dunnock Hinchcliffe succinctly and movingly compares her heroine to the flirty female dunnock, a sly little bird ready for courting as soon as her partner turns his back, while Manda is poised on the verge of a fragile, furtive sexual encounter. She succeeds in making the world of avid twitchers sexy, and the novel has a powerful resonance despite its occasionally clunky story.
Sally Hinchcliffe is undoubtedly talented; in attempting to master the over-populated crime-writing genre, she doesn't quite succeed. I suspect that she will continue to improve as a writer as she finds her own style, strengthens her plots and concentrates on her considerable ability for shaping physical description, psychological insight and character observation.
Thanks to Ebury Press, the publisher, for kindly providing The Bookbag with this work from a very promising novelist.
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