Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

Book blurb

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

My thoughts

This is a story with multiple characters that speak to recount what happens over a three hour period beginning at the start of the school day when Cliff Heights school comes under attack and terror seemingly reigns.

The characters are many and well drawn.

The headteacher, Matthew Marr, he is badly injured taken into the library by a brave student. Those in the library are blockading the door with books. As a gunman strides up and down the corridor outside the library, a classroom opposite and the headmasters office.

The deputy head, Neil Forbright, has recently returned from sick leave he is responsible for communications and liaison with the police. He is alone, locked in the Heads office.

The teachers, Mr Lorimer, head of Junior school, he doesn’t believe what he’s being told but nevertheless, under instruction, takes the junior school teachers and most of its pupils to the relative safety of the cove. It’s a treacherous journey in such bad weather. The rest of the juniors are with Miss Girand in the pottery shed. Mrs Jacinta Kale is reading poetry to her class who have been joined by Donna and Tonya. Then there is Daphne who is rehearsing the school play with pupils in the theatre. Whilst Sally-Ann keeps watch on the door that opens onto the link corridor between the theatre and old school. The corridor between them and the gunman. The corridor that’s a possible escape route for those caught in Old School. If only the gunman could be distracted.

Daphne Epelsteiner, drama teacher, is one of the main speakers while Camille Girand shows such quiet courage.

A parent Beth Alton. She’s heard the news and wants to find her son. On almost reaching the school she is directed to the 3 Pines Leisure Centre. Her husband, Mike, is on his way by train but the weather is making his journey slow. When they hear the news about their son their lives will be forever shattered.

A number of teenagers/children including Rafi and Basi (his younger brother), Hannah, Frank, Zac. All the students are quite something. There are many acts of kindness, bravery and love (large and small) that will show how amazing young people can be in such difficult circumstances.

The police including PC Beard, DI Polstein, Dannisha Taylor, Stuart Dingwall, Lysander Kiehl and the Bronze commander. Much of the police story is told or heard through D I Rose Polstein – a very likeable character.

All have their own thoughts and roles. Each can be heard. This is a book full of characters who are a pleasure to read.

The gunman – is it one or are there more? Yes, there are some bad characters but this author delivers them mainly, though not exclusively, through the eyes, words and thoughts of others.

There is also a back story to Ravi and his younger brother which is very engaging. There are other thoughts or memories shared. They are incredibly well handled and well written.

The book goes straight into the story of a school under siege in the middle of a snow storm the tension is immediate and palpable; the storyline unhurried and yet pacy. A story that will tug at your heart strings, a story of bravery, courage, love, friendship, purgation and evil. A story that will remain with you for a long time.

This is a gripping, emotional story which is very well written – it’s one of my best reads this year. I most definitely recommend it.

Book: Purchased

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
Cast of characters (not exhaustive)

I don’t usually do this but thought you might find it interesting and useful. I’ve tried to make sure that there are no spoilers as I really don’t like to give anything away! If you’re really concerned then just skip down to the Virtual Book Club paragraph and the rest of this blog.

My notes aren’t neatly typed as I’ve done here but if I take notes which is rarely they will be a scrawled mess. So any mistakes are most definitely mine! Here’s a picture just to show you how scruffy my notes are…


•P C Beard: first responder

•Bronze commander: overall responsibility

•Counter-Terrorism: Stuart Dingwall, Safa Rahma, Usman

•Dannisha Taylor: lead negotiator and her team

•DI Rose Polstein: find & i.d. gunman/men and her team – Thandie, Amaal, George

•Off-site teams including Lysander Kiehl (Forensic Analyst)

School: Cliff Heights School

•Head: Mathew Marr;

•Dep. Head: Neil Forbright

•Junior Head: Mr Lorimer

•Teaching staff: Daphne, Mrs Cardswell, Miss Kowalski, Miss Chloe Price, Mrs Jacinta Kale, Olaf Christoffersen (Head IT), Gina Patterson, Camille Girand

•Staff: Sally-Ann, Tonya, Tracey, Donna

•Pupils: Rafi and Basi Bukhasi, Hannah Jacobs, Tobias, Ed, Frank, Esme, Antonella, Benny, Miranda, Zac, Josh, Caitlin, Luisa, Jamie, Charlotte, Donna, Tim, Aysha, Sarah


Beth Alton, Mike Alton, Hannah’s father, Milly’s mother, Antonella’s mother, Parent Governor; Theo (Warwick)


•Ex Pupils: Malin Cohen, Victor Deakin

•Ex teacher: Jed Soames

Where are the characters?

Gatehouse: P C Beard.

Police: A mobile HQ near the school, off-site key activities for example: various house searches for information/evidence.

Old School.

Library: Matthew Marr; Hannah; Frank; Ed; Esme; Tobias

Head’s office: Neil, Deputy Head

Classroom: Mrs Kale – reading poetry; Tonya, Donna and pupils including Charlotte.

Hallway: Gunman/men

Theatre: Daphne – dress rehearsals; Sally-Ann and pupils including Antonella; Zac; Luisa; Tim; Josh; Benny; Miranda; Caitlin; Tracey

Junior School: Mr Lorimer, Mrs Cardswell, Miss Kowalski, Miss Chloe Price and pupils – escaped to the cove awaiting rescue by boat. Cove: as Junior School plus Rafi who accompanies his brother Basi.

Pottery Shed: Camille Girand and pupils – they are children.

Another Shed: A youngster feeding his virtual animals.

Various places: Rafi

Woods: gunman/men; High ropes – gunman/men. Just one moving around or more?

New School: Olav Christoffersen, Gina Pattison, other teachers and pupils – Evacuated?

3 Pines Leisure Centre: Information point. The Cafe – All parents/partners/relatives of pupils and teachers who have not been evacuated including Junior school pupils until rescued. Second room – Parents/relatives of Pottery Class pupils.

A Virtual Crime Book Club

Three Hours was our book club read this month. It’s been my favourite so far and, as I said, will be one of my top books this year.

Do check out this book club hosted by Rebecca Bradley it’s a lovely bunch of people who enjoy reading and chatting about books.

Take a look at what we said but beware! Spoilers lurk here so maybe view this after first reading the book.

This is my 4th book in the #20BooksofSummer20 so just 16 remain! You can find out more about this challenge by popping over to Cathy’s blog – you’ll find lot’s of other wonderful book stuff there, too!


Published: Penguin (6 Jan. 2020)

Buy: AmazonSmileUK |Waterstones |Your local bookshop


Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer.

Website: Rosamund Lupton

Follow on Twitter: @Rosamundlupton


Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.

Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.

Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick

Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.


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