This book, for me, is one of the stand out books of 2020. Not just in the thriller genre, it’s one of my favourite books of the year. This isn’t a book you read, this is a book you live and breathe.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Children and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news. In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
I think I’m going to find it hard to find the words to describe and review this book as it was simply too powerful, but I’ll try! At times I was tearful, others I was hopeful, but the whole way through I was utterly absorbed. It left me physically reeling, genuinely a bit dazed.
The plot of Three Hours, a school under siege, is absolutely gripping. It seems unbelievable that this would happen, and yet somehow Lupton’s writing makes it real. The school in question, an open, liberal and accepting place, seems both a likely and unlikely target for such an event, but the explanation is drawn out cleverly throughout the book. The pace is almost perfect, with a balance between character focus and plot progression that kept me absorbed throughout. As the plot develops, more characters are brought in such as Rose, the forensic psychologist investigator, and this is where the interest and suspense really builds. What Lupton does is incredibly clever, using aspects from the real world to heighten her plot, drawing the reader in even further by making it relatable to their own life.
The characters however, are what really drives this novel forward as one of the best books of the year. The writing is beautiful and so the characters come alive off the page. I felt genuinely emotionally attached to them. Hannah’s quiet courage and incredible selflessnes. Rafi and his strength and determination, despite his traumatic past. Mr Marr, the unbelievably brave headteacher and his deputy Mr Forbright. Daphne and her drama kids, Beth and her conversations with her son. Every aspect, every character, is planned and considered to the last detail. The one trait that they all display is courage, and yet somehow they display it all in different ways. It’s hard to describe why without giving away too much, but each and every character adds something key to this book. They all add another example of humanity, of love.
I read this book in a day. I started it before work, carried on at lunch, and finished it that evening. Anything that took me away from this book (including my job!) I was annoyed at, as all I wanted to do was sit and read. If this book isn’t on your TBR for 2020, it absolutely must be. I adored it.
Viking, 29th October 2020