Yes, it’s Friday which means book reviews: so what have I been reading this week? Well, I’ve been getting ahead with the Crime Reading Group material and I’ve finished the book for next month, which is ‘Blue Monday’ by Nicci French. I had not come across Nicci French before, and that’s the great thing about this group: it introduces you to writers you would never have found on your own. Even so, I had to start this one about four times, since I mostly read in bed at night, and this book begins with about three different stories starting in the first twenty pages, none of which seem to bear any relation to the other. So inevitably I forgot what I’d read the night before and had to go back and start again, but eventually I gave it a solid half-hour in the daytime and then I got into it.
The first story is about a snatched child who disappears completely and is never found. This failure haunts the police force who dealt with the case, and destroys the family as well. Destroyed and failed families are a theme of the book, as elsewhere a pair of twins turns up who are separated at birth and have no knowledge of each other’s existence. It turns out they share each other’s thoughts and feelings and one, a well-intentioned bloke who is seeing a psychiatrist, finds himself thinking the other’s criminal thoughts.
Meanwhile another child is snatched and the police, lacking any leads, turn in desperation to the same psychiatrist, Frieda, to see if she can help.
The story explores the differences between the logical, step-by-step approach the police have to take, and the intuitive, instinctive and imaginative leaps that Frieda is able to make. There’s nothing facile here, and nothing comes easily either – or feels certain when it does come. Even when the truth is discovered and two out of three cases are solved (a woman goes missing during the investigation and is never found) there’s very little sense of triumph or ‘wrapping things up’. In fact I got a little exasperated with Frieda and her failure to engage with personal relationships or commit to a man she genuinely loves. But this is an authentic and unpredictable story; and towards the end there’s a plot twist which I won’t reveal here but which actually made me gasp and shout ‘Oh no!’ – something I rarely do.*
Nicci French is an intelligent and accomplished writer and I was pleased to have been introduced to her. I also have to say that I might not have persevered with it had it not been for the group, as I find stories about disappeared children very upsetting.
Here’s the book:
Oh, and in other news, Holly got an A for her English and a B for Graphics, so we’re very pleased about that.
*when reading a book, that is. Otherwise I do it all the time…