Cara Burrows has spent a third of the family’s savings on a two week stay at a five star spa resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona. She hasn’t told her husband and children where she is going. Arriving late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s unease deepens when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is somebody she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in America, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?
Did You See Melody? Is the first book I have read by Sophie Hannah, so I come to this with fresh eyes and no preconceptions. I say this because the press release does say it is a departure from her previous novels, and I have noticed in other reviews it has been commented on. I really enjoyed this book, it is a great psychological thriller with an interesting premise at its centre; could a girl, whose parents were convicted for her murder seven years ago, still be alive and staying at a five star spa resort in Arizona. It may seem a bit far fetched but, like all good crime and thriller novels it could happen. It is a fast paced, utterly compelling read full of twists and turns to keep you guessing. Sophie Hannah also writes with some wit, looking at American Justice TV shows and the American culture of having every thing at hand; buttons to press for a car to drive you around the spa so you don’t have to walk, another button to get waiter service to your sun lounger and even the rooms have a button to arrange fresh orange delivered in a morning.
As well as the main plot there are chapters written by Melody when she was seven detailing her life when living with her parents. These are troubling to read, there is no physical abuse but plenty of emotional abuse. Also included are transcript of an American TV show, Justice with Bonnie, the followed the murder investigation of Melody Chapa, and her parents ultimate conviction. This gives the reader the chance to learn more about the case and possible reasons for Melody’s disappearance; it is also evidence of how much influence television has on these cases in America.
There are a diverse cast of cast of memorable characters in this book; corrupt police officers, larger than life television personalities, a crazy older lady who thinks she sees Melody every time she stays at the resort, and the mother and daughter due who ooze sarcasm. I have to be honest and say I quite admired Cara Burrows as a character. She is troubled by problems at home, and takes herself half way around the world to sort out her feelings. She is full of wit and sarcasm, in a typically English way at the American way of life; she is not used to the over the top American welcome and customer a, and is horrified at their justice system and trial through media. Tarin Fry is Cara’s complete opposite, she is loud, nosey, rude to a point and use to being pampered. Normally they would never have become friends but this mystery brings them together, and it is Tarin’s single minded determination that pushes the theory of Melody being alive.
Did You See Melody? is not an edge of your seat thriller, but it will grab your attention from the very start and keep you guessing until the last page; I found it hard to put down and carried it with me all weekend picking it up at every chance, even whilst sitting with the dogs as they had their tea. A fascinating, and compelling read that I highly recommend.