The praise for Rosamund Lupton’s novel Three Hours was overwhelming. It was The Times Thriller of Year, shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime novel of the year and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, Guardian, Mail, Express and Mirror, amongst many more. I knew her previous work, The Quality of Silence, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick so I had high hopes when I decided to pick Three Hours as my next read.
In rural Somerset, in the middle of a blizzard, a school is under siege. Teachers are desperately trying to protect their students while parents are frantically trying to contact their loved ones. Pupils and teachers are trapped in classrooms while their headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to protect his beloved students. Meanwhile, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen. In three intense hours, they all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
It’s very hard for a book topic such as this to not have an emotional impact. As a mother of school-age children, I did find myself holding my breath in several parts. It was tense, at times almost unbearably so. I feared for the safety of so many of the characters.
Despite the obvious tension, it was also tender in places and I found it heart wrenching reading about the fear of the children and the bravery of those trying to help. It perfectly displayed people’s capacity for good as well as bad.
There were so many brilliant things about the book but I did find it a bit slow in places. It seems so unlikely considering how tense some scenes were but I felt certain sections dragged on a bit. I predicted some of it which was a bit disappointing, although I admit there’s a lot more to the story than finding the culprit.
There were so many characters and so many different points of view that there wasn’t really time for character development. It was also slightly unrealistic in places and I could really have done without the tenuous links to Macbeth.
Having said that, it did keep me reading until the end and I did want to find out what happened to everyone. The pace picked up towards the end and all loose ends were tied up.
Overall I’d say I liked it, but perhaps not as much as I’d hoped.
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