Three Hours

I found Rosamund Lupton in Heathrow airport during a long layover, and devoured her debut novel Sister before I boarded the plane.  Since then I have anxiously waited for her novels to travel across the pond; but Three Hours was too long to wait.  I still have not seen it in stores here but I found it through the Book Depository and escaped into its world, reading through it in one day.  I love it when a book captures me; it’s been a while since a story has been so compelling.

Three Hours reminded me of the first of Ann Patchett’s novels, Bel Canto, with its theme of hostages, terror, lives intersecting and morphing into positive and negative influences, with a well constructed plot leading to surprises at the end. Lupton updates her characters to students in a liberal British school, unknowingly infiltrated by a psychopath who has connected with a hate filled group.  Students tweet and send messages through all the current social media and learn how to make bombs and adapt machine guns on the internet; they are more adept than their teachers and parents, of course.  Two Syrian refugees, one who proves to be a hero, provide the fulcrum as the story unravels through three hours of terror in the school.

So much happens, the three hours could have been weeks, as the reader watches students, teachers, parents, and the attackers through the lens of innocence and bias.  Macbeth plays a pivotal role on the story, and as someone who has read and taught the play, I was impressed by how Lupton integrates Shakespeare’s universal themes into today’s world.  As their fellow students are held hostage in the library, barricaded by books, and in a small pottery shed, making clay animals, the seniors rehearse the play in the seemingly foolproof theater.  The play’s murders and the infamous witches are suddenly relevant to the horror around them, and Birnam Wood will never be the same.

A fast paced thriller with not so subtle implications for today’s world, Three Hours is another of Lupton’s amazing rides.

Related Posts:

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence





The Quality of Silence

9781101903674_p0_v4_s192x300Rosamund Lupton’s newest suspense thriller – The Quality of Silence – had my undivided attention throughout the day.  Following a mother and her deaf daughter as they drove a ten ton rig in a fast-paced chase through the Arctic cold, I could not put the book down until I finished.  What a ride.

The story focuses on Ruby, a clever ten year old who was born deaf, and her mother, Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, as they search for Matt, father and husband presumed to be dead in a lethal explosion at an Eskimo village.  Not willing to believe he is dead, the mother and daughter hitch a ride along the Dalton Highway in Alaska to the Arctic Circle to find him.  When the driver of the truck has a stroke, Yasmin takes the wheel to drive into a snowstorm and across narrow frozen rivers.  Afraid to leave Ruby to try to communicate with strangers, she takes her along, but when they realize they are being followed, the tension escalates.

Villains come from obvious as well as insidious sources.  Lupton uses the effects of fracking on the environment as the major villain in the story, with  sharp observations about its effects on the ecosystem, and the dire consequences for the environment in the future.  As a ten year old deaf child, Ruby feels excluded from friends at her mainstreamed school as she deals with silent bullies.  And, Yasmin worries that her wildlife documentary-maker husband, Matt, who has been working for months in the Arctic night, has betrayed her with an Inupiaq woman; his last email – “I kissed her because I missed you.”

Lupton cleverly uses Ruby’s young voice as a distraction from the terror, and grounds the story in the family dynamics.  Ruby’s optimism was often a welcome distraction from the nail-biting drama.

All ends well with the bad guys getting their due, thanks to Ruby and her tech savvy.  Once again, Lupton delivers  a satisfying and compelling tale.  All of Lupton’s books offer a thrilling ride, but this one was chilling.

I look forward to the next one.

Reviews of Other Lupton books:  


Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

British bookcover

How many books do you buy, shelve, and forget about? When I’d bought Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards in Heathrow Airport in December, I was so excited to get a book four months before it would be published in the United States. Her first book – Sister – had me locked into reading in one night. But I got distracted, and now with the hardback available in American bookstores, I am finally opening the British paperback, months later – using my sales receipt from Heathrow as a bookmark.

American bookcover

As I read, I noticed the British flavor in the language – a character described as a jolly-hockey-sticks Sloane in FUN shirts (long sleeves a different pattern to the rest); reference to “a spot-on present”; and, of course “Mum” instead of Mom. I wondered if an editor changed words for the American publication as for the cover, which was eerily different.

The device Lupton uses to tell the story reminded me of the movie, “Just Like Heaven,” with Reese Witherspoon’s character flitting about uncovering clues, while her body lay comatose in the hospital. Lupton uses two roving spirits to uncover clues to the mystery of who set the lethal fire to the schoolhouse – Grace, the literate Cambridge educated part-time news reporter, and her daughter Jenni, a creative seventeen year old who probably will not pass the entrance exams.

On sports day, when the children, including Grace’s son, eight year old Adam, are out on the field, an arsonist burns down the school.  Grace tries to rescue her daughter, who is working as the school nurse for the day, but they both are badly hurt and lie comatose in the hospital.  Their spirits, however, reconnect outside their bodies, roaming the halls, listening to doctors and family discuss their fate, and following possible murderers around the halls and into the neighborhood.  Although the premise is far-fetched, the conversations between mother and daughter are as normal as if they were alive, as they become a detective team to solve the whodunit.

An easy read, with enough suspense to keep the plot moving, Afterwards has as many family relationship issues as mystery, but Lupton is expert at throwing red herrings, and the culprit is not obvious until the end of the story.  The end is thrilling but be sure to have some tissues handy.

Related Review:

Books To Look For in 2012

A full page ad for Rosamund Lupton’s Sister – a book I devoured when it first came out – appeared in the first issue this year of the New York Times Book Review.  Lupton has another book – Afterwards – that I looked for in the Heathrow terminal during a long layover.  The salesperson marvelled that I was so excited to find and purchase a book that has already gone to paperback in London, but will not be published in the United States until April.

What other books are coming in 2012 from some of my favorite authors?  Books to look for and anticipate (with publication dates varying according to your country):



  • Sister (


Bee is writing a letter to her younger sister, Tess, who has always been the feisty rebel to Bee’s steady resolve.  Tess will never get the letter – she has been murdered – and Rosamund Lupton uses this epistolary device to unravel the story in Sister.

Hearing from her mother that her sister is missing, Bee flies from New York to London to find her.  Although Tess’s body is discovered early on, the complicated back story incrementally revealing the motivation and the murderer sustains the suspense.  When Tess is found in an abandoned area with her wrists slit, the police conclude that she killed herself.  An affair with a married man that ended with Tess’s pregnancy and the still-born birth of her son seem to confirm the verdict.  But, Bee knows her sister and starts her own investigation.

As Tess tells her dead sister of her search for her killer, she begins a chronological accounting of her sister’s life, flashing back at times to their lives as children of a broken marriage, and the brother who died of cystic fibrosis.  Lupton creates a family drama that happens to involve a murder mystery.  As the sisters’ emotional relationship is gradually revealed, and the sibling rivalry mixes with the care and concern that connects them, Lupton develops their lives into a psychological thriller that’s hard to stop reading.

Throughout the narrative, she uses literary references that humanize Bee’s perspective as she tracks through the gore.  When Bee sees her dead sister’s body, she compares it to “a Desdemona, an Ophelia, a Cordelia – pale and stiff with death, a wronged heroine…”

“Dylan Thomas was wrong: death does have dominion. Death wins the war and the collateral damage is grief.  I never thought when I was an English literature student that I’d be arguing with poets, rather than learning their words.”

In her search for the truth, Bee suspects everyone, including: the father of Tess’s child, the stalker who saw her last in the park, the psychiatrist who misdiagnosed Tess with postpartum depression, the doctor who worked with Tess in a medical trial for cystic fibrosis.  Lupton keeps the action moving and the possibilities viable.

As she comes closer to revealing the murderer, Bee hints that something has happened to her, and that her own life is in danger.  The ending is a surprise – a twist that has been used before, but I didn’t see it coming.

A friend and fellow reader introduced me to this book, and I would not have found it in the stacks without her caution to look for the title with “a novel” attached.  Amazing how many sister books are available.

Knowing the author helps too.  This is Lupton’s debut novel; her second book – Afterwards – is already a success in the UK, but not due to be published in the United States until next year.  This time an arsonist is the key, and I’m looking forward to another wild ride.