Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
“Three Hours is based on every parent’s nightmare,” said Christina Hardyment in The Times. At a progressive school in rural Somerset, two gunmen appear and take pupils and staff hostage. As the attack unfolds, we follow various groups and characters: a drama class which has been rehearsing Macbeth; a badly injured head teacher; a Syrian boy who returns to the building to search for his traumatised younger brother. Written in prose of great “immediacy”, this is both a nail-biting thriller and a “disquisition” on courage and risk-taking, on “tolerance versus brainwashed extremism”.
With its rotating ensemble and echoes of Greek tragedy, this “flawlessly orchestrated story” owes as much to theatre as it does to crime fiction, said John Dugdale in The Sunday Times. “Too often in ‘literary thrillers’, either the genre element or the bookish content is merely gestural”; here, the balance is just right. It’s a work that probes the “mysteries of human consciousness”, said Sara Collins in The Guardian. You don’t know anyone, it reveals, “until the everyday is stripped away”.