SOPHIE Hannah gives her series detectives a welcome break as she offers her best novel for several years.

But in this slick, read-in-one-sitting suspense thriller she still chooses a woman with psychological quirks as her lead character.

Cara Burrows flees her husband and children, raids the family savings and books into a five-star spa resort in the Arizona desert without telling them where she is.

She just needs time alone, you see, to deal with the stress of discovering she’s pregnant with an unwanted third child.

Arriving late at night, she checks into the wrong room and is shocked to find a man and a young girl. She’s even more shocked when, the next day, she realises the girl was Melody Chapa, famously killed by her parents several years before.

Cara isn’t the most reliable witness, with problems in her own life, and she’s ripe for paranoia as she researches the case and begins to investigate her fellow guests.

Did You See Melody? is a high-concept suspense thriller that looks like the countless others you you’ll find side-by-side on the shelves of supermarkets.

But Sophie Hannah is a better writer than those write-by-numbers hacks, up there with Mary Higgins Clark in her early years, and this book is head-and-shoulders above the pack.

Hannah makes the most of her talents for creating an irresistible set-up, writing a page-turning story and displaying a razor-sharp understanding of how people’s minds work.

David Knights