Author – Nicci French
Published – April 2014
Genre – Crime fiction
This is the fourth outing for psychotherapist Frieda Klein in a series that will total 8 titles. The series is shaping up well now and as I’ve said in previous reviews, the simplest analogy I can draw is that it’s like a popular crime series on TV where there is a long story arc running through, but each episode has its own plot and resolution.
This story touches on Frieda’s personal life when an old school friend (or rather acquaintance) approaches her to help her teenage daughter. The daughter seems troubled, withdrawn, won’t talk to her mother, but grudgingly opens up to Frieda. Having quickly established what has caused the young girl’s sudden personality change Frieda suggests that she makes an arrangement to see a psychologist on a more professional basis.
The girl’s revelation brings back some uncomfortable memories for Frieda and prompts her return home – something which she has managed to avoid for more than twenty years. She becomes driven to resolve a very personal incident from her past and embarks on a her own investigation into the event from her teenage years. This involves her tracking down a small cast of characters from her schooldays – both fellow pupils and teachers. Through her own memories and reminiscing with her old school friends she starts to piece together a picture of what took place. It was interesting to read the way that the adult Frieda perceived herself as a teenager and how her friends remembered her. Of course Frieda doesn’t do anything by halves and she manages to put herself at risk, but the resolution is a stroke of genius.
There’s lots going on in her personal life – developments with her boyfriend Sandy, a new relationship for her niece, and despite her best intentions she becomes drawn into her mother’s life. There’s a regular cast of characters peppering the books now – it would be good to see some of them develop further before we reach the end.
It’s good to get an insight into Frieda’s past and so much of the backstory explains the Frieda that we’ve come to know over the first half of the series. Although she is quite an introspective character we’re never privy to all her thoughts, which gives her the capacity to surprise. Moving the story from Frieda’s association with the police works well too – maintaining her informal involvement over the whole series would have strained credibility.
I still find it hard to explain what it is I find so compelling about the character, but despite being the mid-point in the series this is faultless in terms of characters and plot and one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy. You can see another review on the Crime Fiction Lover site.