13) Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
This is not for the faint-hearted or, possibly, for the teacher or parent! It’s a compelling thriller in which a school in rural Somerset is under siege – possibly from terrorists or from a Columbine-style attack. It’s told from multiple viewpoints, but primarily from those who are in different parts of the school, seeking to survive, escape or save their family.
The real-time feel (it probably takes roughly 3 hours to read) gives the book real pace, and it’s difficult not to get swept away by the dramatic events, the characters, and the bravery and compassion that contrasts with the horror and evil at the centre of the story. There are parts that feel inevitably far-flung (most notably the Macbeth-influenced ending), but Lupton creates a cast of well-drawn characters that we are engaged or repelled by in equal measure – and that engagement draws us along through the tense and suspenseful plot.
There is, sadly, a sense of familiarity to the events – whether it’s Dunblane, Columbine of fictionalised versions like We Need To Talk About Kevin – even if there are new social media / white supremacy elements thrown into the mix here (that feel pretty topical). But all that said, it whips along in terrifying fashion, and it’s one of the few books I’ve read recently that deserves the classic ‘unputdownable’ tag; or certainly that other review cliche of ‘page turning’. Both true here.
It’s the only book I’ve read by Rosamund Lupton, but she is an author in complete control of her work here – and in similar control, it feels, of the reader’s emotions: she deserves congratulations for finding me holding my breath at 1am in the morning as I raced to finish it.
BUY IT NOW: Three Hours: The Top Ten Sunday Times Bestseller