9th January 2020 Viking Books
Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.
It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster trapped in the library, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.
Quite unusually for a book I think, this story is told in real time. Three (very long) hours when a private, liberal school in rural Somerset is on lock down. The police are outside, along with a hostage negotiator and other emergency response units trying desperately to navigate the correct path which will ensure the safe release of all those in the school environment.
The use of real time served to create tension in the story throughout, reading it, I can honestly say I felt anxious at times for the safety of some specific characters and due to the way the story was playing out, there were no hints or clues as to how this would end. I really liked this original format, additionally the story was told from several perspectives so at different times the reader was either inside or outside the school, with the police or parents awaiting news of their children, or in the school as the pupils struggled to cope with this harrowing situation.
The characters were very well developed and I felt a huge amount of concern for some as I envisioned how events would play out. Told in the third person narrative throughout, the author still managed to capture individual voices and as a reader I felt very absorbed in the story.
The ending was interesting and I have seem some comment it was rushed, although the real time nature of the storytelling naturally made the climax seem quick. There was an interesting twist late in the story which somewhat unusually I had ‘worked out’ again I have seen comments that this could have been given more attention, but again it was revealed as a police discovery and that was the nature of the story.
I liked this book a lot, it was cleverly written and personally it was one of the most tense books I have read. I like the concept of real time in a book and I think a school in lockdown under siege is the ideal scenario as we often experience these big world events in real time as they play out. Definitely recommended by me.
About the Author
Rosamund Lipton is the author of Sister, a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, winner of the Strand Magazine critics award and the Richard and Judy Book Club Readers Choice Award. Her next two novels, Afterwards and The Quality of Silence (also a Richard and Judy pick), were Sunday Times bestsellers. Her books have been published in over thirty languages.