Title: The Cradle in the Grave
Author: Sophie Hannah
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
Helen Yardley. Sarah Jaggard. Ray Hines. Three women who were accused of killing their infant children, three women whose convictions were ensured by the testimony of Dr. Judith Duffy. But now their convictions have been overturned, and Dr. Duffy is under review. When Fliss Benson, a TV producer, has a movie about crib death dumped on her, she begins investigating each case, trying to present a balanced view. But when Helen Yardley is murdered, Fliss realizes the stakes are much higher than what she initially thought.
After enjoying The Truth-Teller’s Lie by Sophie Hannah, I was eager to read her latest US release, The Cradle in the Grave. The issue of SIDS is a difficult one, especially considering there is no definitive cause of death in these cases. I have no doubt that many cases of mothers shaking infants have been mistaken for SIDS; the question this book deals with is the opposite situation, whether Helen, Sarah, and Ray had babies that died of crib death, but were accused by Dr. Judith Duffy of murder.
Sophie Hannah presents the issue thoughtfully, thoroughly exploring crib death, as well as the psyche behind a desperate woman who might murder her child. When the book begins, the reader assumes that all three of these women are innocent because their names have been cleared. As the book progresses, however, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems, and that the reader can’t be sure of anything. It makes for a psychologically twisted and thrilling read.
Despite the ripped-from-the-headlines story, the pace of The Cradle in the Grave is a bit slow. Hannah’s writing has a style that I can only describe as “close together”. The book seems a bit cramped, as if words are fighting to escape the confines of the book. While I never had trouble reading it, and I found the entire novel very interesting, it wasn’t the easiest read to get through.
Fliss Benson is arguably the main character of The Cradle in the Grave; she ties the book together and keeps the story moving forward. She was an endearing main character, who had her own secret to hide, one which gives her a personal stake in this story of crib death. The mystery plotline is interesting, and kept me guessing from beginning to end.
The Cradle in the Grave is a thought provoking novel. UK readers (and readers in the US and other countries who seek out UK books) should take note that The Cradle in the Grave is the US release of A Room Swept White; this is not a brand new work from Sophie Hannah. I find Hannah’s style incredibly interesting and unique, and I am looking forward to her next US release.