The Carrier by Sophie Hannah is an intense psychological thriller. It can be considered a love story and a gripping mystery, a “who done it” of sorts. Released earlier this month in the US, it has already won the 2013 Crime Thriller of the Year at the UK National Book Awards.
This story offers deep insights into interpersonal relationships through the different character’s personalities. The plot begins when Gaby Struthers, a scientist who has an innovative technology company must room with Lauren Cookson, a caregiver prone to hysteria. They are stuck in Germany overnight when their plane is delayed. Lauren lets slip that she knows someone who has been arrested for murdering his wife, Francine, and that he, Tim, is innocent. Panicky, she refuses to discuss the matter further, but a quick Google search tells Gaby that the man now in jail is the only man she has ever loved. The storyline plays off the book, Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, where a certain number of people are “persons of interest” in the house where the murder occurred. Recurring characters, Detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer try to sort out the different stories of those involved, attempting to find the true murderer. The sub-plot shows through poetry the love Gaby and Tim have for each other, and how Gaby will stop at nothing to prove Tim’s innocence.
The characters are a dichotomy of each other, with the heroine, Gaby, the only one that is truly likeable, although, Lauren is someone that grows on the reader. Gaby is strong, smart, independent, and sharp-tongued. It is a wonder why she would fall so hard for Tim who appears boring, self-centered manipulative, wimpy, and spineless. Lauren is frighteningly prone to hysteria, a complainer, whiny, yet very vulnerable, insecure, and has a moral compass.
Hannah noted to blackfive.net, “I wanted Gaby’s character to stand out. My intention was for Gaby to be the heroine and the one who the readers will identify with. She finds herself in a situation where almost everybody she comes into contact with is abusive, unsatisfactory, or not very supportive. While Gaby is tough and must look after herself, all the others let her down. I will have a future cameo role for her in another book. To Gaby, Tim is like a performance that seems to impress her. What makes her attracted to him is his attitude. Opposites attract. She is intelligent, a high achiever who has her act together in every way but her romantic feelings. Gaby is a sucker for Tim’s awful, manipulative, and useless ways. She should have walked away from him since he caused her a load of misery. Regarding the other characters, I did not intentionally write them as despicable. They were pushed around with forces beyond their control. Although Lauren can be infuriating she does have redeeming features.”
Adding to the intrigue of the novel are the many themes of the book. The examination of people’s dysfunctional relationships, how their emotions make them behave as they do and what lengths ordinary people will go to in response to extraordinary events. There is also the potent subject of mercy killing vs. assisted suicide vs. murder. Finally, the author explores what happens when a good person takes upon evil traits.
The Carrier is a riveting tale of emotionally scarred and psychologically paralyzed characters. What makes the story even more interesting is the alternating perspectives between the heroine Gaby and the police investigation concerning the mystery.
Hannah also gave a heads up about her next book due out this summer, Woman With A Secret, a Zailer and Waterhouse mystery. It is about a respectable housewife and mother, Nicki, who is leading a dangerous secret double life. Because of her suspicious behavior, and her inability to explain to the police her whereabouts, Nicki becomes the person of interest in a murder investigation. The victim is a controversial newspaper journalist, a shock jock columnist who seems to offend every element of a population.