There’s always something a little unsatisfactory about reviewing the third book in a series. If you’ve read and loved the first two – Blue Monday and Tuesday’s Gone – as I have, I must report that I thought this was the best yet. If you haven’t, don’t start with this one – although there are a few attempts to summarise what’s gone before, there are aspects you really won’t understand and appreciate, like Frieda’s chaotic relationships, the significance of Dean, the back stories of all the characters and the significance of their actions. Nicci French – the husband and wife writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French – has (have?) written some wonderful earlier psychological thrillers, so if you haven’t read any of their work before I’d recommend starting with one of them. It’s difficult to recommend to others, but I think my personal favourites were Killing Me Softly, Beneath The Skin and Secret Smile.
I wouldn’t recommend some of their later books – some of them just didn’t quite hit the mark for me, and perhaps signalled to the authors too that a new direction was needed. And this series, featuring psychotherapist Frieda Klein, is something of a departure from their previous books, but has the same engrossing story lines, well drawn characters (particularly, but not exclusively, the women), strong narrative drive and palpable sense of tension.
The story opens when the body of Ruth Lennox – apparently the perfect wife and mother – is found by her daughter. As the investigation gets underway, it transpires that there was a lot more to Ruth’s life than met the eye. Frieda – still recovering from her experience in Tuesday’s Gone – connects with the family through her niece Chloe (as infuriating as ever) who is friendly with the eldest son Tom. While the police’s efforts to solve the case continue, with a more in-depth look at the characters of DCI Karlsson and DC Yvette Long, Frieda (who is no longer working with the police) is side-tracked into another investigation by a chance comment made by a patient. She pairs up with Jim Fearby, an elderly journalist with an obsession for the truth, and the whole story is played out with Frieda’s own fragile mental state becoming increasingly evident. All the same characters are here – Sandy, her sister-in-law Olivia, the wonderful Josef who originally met Frieda by falling through her roof and in this book is “helping” by refurbishing her bathroom. And in the shadows – always – is that sinister character.
The writing is as excellent as ever, and I really can’t agree with some of the criticisms I’ve read of it as repetitive or as police procedural – there are some very short and essential diversions to pursue the narrative, but the heart and focus of this book is Frieda who becomes more and more fascinating as the series develops. I didn’t guess the ending – but I really didn’t want to, I just wanted to be swept along and discover it with Frieda. This is a wonderful addition to the series – please just don’t start here. I can’t wait for Thursday…