The Dead Lie Down, a psychological thriller by Sophie Hannah set in the fringes of the British art world, will keep you turning pages looking for all kinds of answers, the least of which may well be who done it. The book has a plot much more complicated than that. It all begins with a confession to a murder that doesn't seem to have happened, since the supposed victim is patently still alive. One character after another is haunted by all sorts of unexplained mysteries from the past. Indeed, the reader will have to get well into the novel, before the question of who done it even becomes relevant. And it is no mean feat that Hannah keeps you reading until it does.
There are five major characters in the novel, each one seemingly crazier than the other, or if not crazy, at least strange. There are two law officers, Simon Waterhouse a somewhat repressed Momma's boy who takes out his frustrations on his friends and colleagues. He is engaged to Sergeant Charlotte "Charlie" Zailer, who has resigned from her position as a DC to become a community liaison officer because of some past snafu that is hinted at and alluded to but not ever explained in detail, presumably because it has been the subject of a prior book. Either you're a Hannah lover, and you already know all about it, or else you're a potential reader, and it wouldn't do to give the plot away. All Charlie's actions are colored by her fear that everyone looks at her as a screw up.
Ruth Bussey also has been involved in something she is ashamed of, something so bad she has moved away from her home to a new city and even at times thinks of suicide, but, as with Charlie, she doesn't seem to want to tell the reader about it. In her new home, she begins to cope with life again through a rather sudden interest in art. She gets a job in first in a gallery and then with a framer after she has a run-in with one of the gallery's customers. Aiden Seek is the framer. They fall in love, and in a night of confessions, where they have agreed not to ask each other any questions about what they reveal, she tells him that she has done something bad in her past, and he tells her that he has killed a woman.
The woman, it turns out is Mary Trelease, the woman with whom Ruth had the dust up, but, more importantly, a woman who is not dead. Mary has her own quirks and problems. She is a painter who lives in a house filled with paintings, but she refuses to sell any of her work. She is demanding and uncooperative, even after she is told by police that someone has confessed to having killed her, certainly something you'd think would at least worry her.
Both Ruth and Aiden take it upon themselves to go to the police individually. Ruth goes to Charlie; Aiden to another officer who turns it over to Simon. Both become intrigued and begin to pursue the case, despite official disinterest by their superiors. The story alternates chapters between Ruth's first person narration of events, along with her fears and problems and the account of the investigation from the two officer's point of view.
The Dead Lie Down is a nicely written, workmanlike thriller that leads to a messy blood spilling climax. It's a roller coaster ride getting there, the only trouble is that once you get to the end you may begin to wonder. Things do finally add up, but you have to wonder why it took them so long. You have to wonder why things that seemed to be elementary and almost obvious were overlooked or ignored. Still, when all is said and done, the ride is worth it, the getting there is fun, even if after you've gotten there you end up shaking your head..