A Voice in the Night: Sarah Hawthorn’s inspiration + Review

I am delighted to welcome Sarah Hawthorn to discuss what inspired her to write her new psychological thriller A Voice in the NightPlus, we share our review of this suspense-filled debut.

A Voice in the Night: Sarah Hawthorn's inspiration + Review

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Sarah Hawthorn on her inspiration for A Voice in the Night

In my early twenties, I was fortunate enough to live in New York for three years before I emigrated to Australia. It was a heady time when many friendships and memories were made. So, it was with sadness and disbelief that I returned many years later, just a few weeks after the events of 9/11, to a city in grief.

On that visit, I went with my two young children to Ground Zero, the name commonly given to where once the two majestic Twin Towers had dominated Manhattan’s Wall Street area, before being blasted to the ground when planes slammed into them early on the morning of September 11, 2001.

It was still a site of devastation, cordoned off by wire fencing which was covered in hundreds of posters with photographs and messages of lost ones, as relatives and friends reached out for news about possible survivors. Tears streamed down our faces as we read the notices, standing amongst the smoke and ashes that still swirled in the air. The atmosphere was heavy, laden with smouldering sorrow.

‘The atmosphere was heavy, laden with smouldering sorrow.’

Fifteen years later, on my next visit to New York, my first priority was a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial to pay my respects. It was a blustery day, and a chill wind blew across the forecourt of 1 World Trade Center, and around the two vast footprints where once the North and South Towers had stood.

At ground level, visitors walked slowly around the stone walls which encased each of the former tower sites. Below, filling the basements of the buildings I looked down into the memorial pools, each nearly an acre in size. Fountains normally gushed water into the air but that day it was too windy. People spoke in hushed tones, most remained silent as they read row after row of names etched into bronze on the wall: almost 3,000 people who had died in the terror attacks of 2001 and the earlier attempt in 1993 (when a bomb was detonated below the North Tower, killing six and injuring 1000+). The magnitude of those lost, and the lasting effect on families, friends, communities and total strangers, was sobering.

The solemnity of the pilgrimage stayed with me many hours after I’d left Lower Manhattan and returned to my hotel. But those names, many of whom still hadn’t been formally identified (and to this day more than 1000 people’s remains are unaccounted for) stayed with me.

I thought … what if?

What if someone used such a dreadful calamity as a cover to escape from an untenable situation, a moment in time when everyone would be looking the other way?  What would be the consequences of such a split-second decision? And what happens when the dead choose to return to the living?

‘…a moment in time when everyone would be looking the other way…’

Whilst it seemed like a flight of fancy to even consider such a scenario, I was interested to discover whether there were any true stories in this vein, not just conspiracy theories.

Research showed that indeed, there were a handful of people who pretended they had died in the attacks in order to escape criminal prosecution. There were those who profited by claiming their partner had been killed that day. Another claimed to have survived with burns, when in fact she was nowhere near the buildings. Others were mistakenly declared dead when they had in fact, survived.

And thus the kernel of a premise for A Voice In The Night was born.

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A Voice in the Night - Sarah Hawthorn - ReviewA Voice in the Night Synopsis

‘A fast-paced and emotional page-turner.’ – Christian White, bestselling author of Nowhere Child.

Following a bitter separation, Lucie moves to London to take up a position with a prestigious law firm. It seems an optimistic new beginning, until one day she receives a hand-delivered note with the strange words: At last I’ve found you. A shock I‘m sure. But in time I‘ll explain. Martin. 

Lucie hasn’t forgotten a man called Martin who was tragically killed twenty years ago in the 9/11 attacks. When she was working in New York as a young intern Lucie had fallen in love with him and he vowed to leave his wife to be with her permanently.

As an inexplicable series of events occur Lucie wonders if her long-dead lover could have staged his own disappearance under the cover of that fateful day. Or could it be that someone else is stalking her, or that her vivid imagination is playing tricks?

In a novel filled with compelling characters, and set in London, New York and Sydney, it seems that anyone could be out to sabotage Lucie’s memories and ambitions, including herself.

A Voice in the Night is an addictive thriller of twists and turns, a gripping and emotionally resonant debut from a striking new voice.

‘With masterful pacing and stealthy execution, Sarah Hawthorn’s accomplished debut keeps you on the edge of your seat and guessing right up until the end. Brilliant!’ – Julietta Henderson, author of The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman

(Transit Lounge Publishing, July 2021)

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Romance


There is much to admire about Sarah Hawthorn’s debut novel.

Her taut prose and a first-person narrative that alternates between time periods – September 2001 New York and Present Day London – steadily ratchets up the tension levels. And her enigmatic, at times spiky and unpredictable protagonist Lucie, and her romantic entanglements keep readers guessing… our sympathies and alliances constantly shifting.

This novel is not quite a ‘literary’ thriller, the focus on character reliability (or otherwise) and the entwining mystery plot rather than prose styling. But A Voice in the Night goes far deeper than most psychological thrillers in its nuanced exploration of the potential long-term and lasting impacts of grief.

Lawyer Lucie’s propensity to push the envelope in terms of personal risk is confounding yet fascinating, and at times the suspense pulsating. Her tendency for insular thinking and distancing herself emotionally is perhaps more understandable, but no less self-destructive. And the myriad suspicions borne from observing the actions of others through the filter of Lucie’s life experiences make for an engrossing read.

In A Voice in the Night, Sarah Hawthorn has delivered a hard-hitting and thought-provoking debut.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of A Voice in the Night from:

Amazon Booktopia AU

More gripping psychological thrillers:
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley  /  The Trajectory of Dreams by Nicole Wolverton  /  Shiver by Allie Reynolds  /  My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips  /  A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer  / The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

About the Author, Sarah Hawthorn

Born and raised in the UK, Sarah Hawthorn lived in Toronto, Dallas and New York before emigrating to Sydney, Australia. After career jumps from actress to journalist and then publicist, she relocated to the village of Bundanoon in NSW’s beautiful Southern Highlands to pursue her dream of being a full-time novelist. When not writing, Sarah enjoys theatre, cooking and walking her dogs. A Voice in the Night is her debut novel. More at  www.sarahhawthorn.com.au

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2021 and the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.