Nicci French

Saturday Requiem – Nicci French

91xfgQYOqxLTitle – Saturday Requiem

Author – Nicci French

Published – 30 June 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the sixth in the series of eight books in the Frieda Klein series and despite my worries that I wouldn’t enjoy a Nicci French series I am starting to worry about how I will feel when we reach the end.

I normally read on my commute so it’s not often that I read for more than thirty or forty minutes but an extra day off work and some unexpected sunshine means that I started the book this morning and have finished it in one sitting (well, with breaks for coffee and biscuits). It’s such a treat to be able to do that when you’re really gripped by a book.

This story is much more of a conventional crime fiction plot. Frieda is asked to assess Hannah Docherty, a young woman who has been held in a secure hospital for thirteen years, having been convicted of murdering her family. Hannah’s ‘care’ seems to have been woefully inadequate and as anyone familiar with Frieda will expect, she is unable to leave the young woman without taking up Hannah’s cause. This leads Frieda to launch an investigation into the murders whilst on the periphery of her work with the police. In fact it’s good to see Frieda having some support from the police, although she does end up pushing the boundaries and taking matters into her own hands. Well she wouldn’t be Frieda if she didn’t.

There’s lots to love about Frieda but I particularly enjoyed the sessions she had with a patient. She listens and doesn’t really direct the woman but you feel that nevertheless she steers her in the right direction. She brings the same skill into play when she undertakes her own investigations – it’s always about the details and the people and not about the technical forensics or pathology.

We see a lot less of the regular characters that we’ve come to know though the series and certainly none of the huge group get-togethers that have peppered the earlier books. Although the characters all do make an appearance this is much more Frieda acting on her own and less her using the other characters as a sounding board. Frieda, as we know from ‘Friday’, needs the others around her, however peripherally.

This certainly has a different feel to it and perhaps it’s the sense that the series is drawing to the end and the loose ends are closer to being resolved. Dean Reeve continues to make his presence felt to give the underlying sense of tension that has permeated all the books. His physical presence is less than in some of the earlier titles, but we’re left in no doubt that he is still about. Of course we must now wonder, as we approach the climax of the series, what is it that Dean really wants…?

If you are wondering if you can pick the series up here – the answer is no! The book would make perfect sense on its own – the crime element is perfectly readable without knowing the characters and backstory – but this is very much an instalment in a longer story and I would recommend beginning with Blue Monday.

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
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Friday on my Mind – Nicci French

51eeDcrhV7LTitle – Friday on my Mind

Author – Nicci French

Published – 2 July 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

In the interest of getting through some of my backlog of reviews I have taken the executive decision (this is MY blog after all) to write a few shorter reviews. First up – the 5th of the 8 books in the Frieda Klein series.

I surprised myself by really taking to the series after all the previous standalones; I think in Frieda they have created a great and very likeable leading character. Strong and independent she’s been a magnet for trouble and despite leaving the post she held temporarily assisting the police, she has still managed to end up in dire situations. But of course the advantage of setting out the commitment to 8 titles at the beginning means that a long story arc can be plotted through the whole series to offer a little something in each book.

In ‘Friday’ the opening gives us someone else’s point of view of Frieda when a body is discovered with a hospital name bracelet bearing her name. Through this part we see Frieda through other’s eyes and it offers a different perspective, and we can see how being self-contained can come across as aloof, disinterested or even callous.

The body in question is someone who has been close to Frieda and with the backstory from the previous books and a little incriminating evidence, it is inevitable that the police believe that Frieda is responsible. Frieda herself believes that Dean Reeve is to blame and goes on the run to prove her case. She makes a pretty rubbish amateur detective (obviously crime fiction isn’t her first love). It feels quite a sad book, especially seeing Frieda out of her comfort zone and away from the sanctuary of her home.

This feels like a book where the series has reached a tipping point. Suddenly the familiar from the earlier books in the series has been taken away, there are lots of changes in the relationships and this is perhaps setting us up for the final few books. It certainly seems much more like a ‘middle’ book and is perhaps not so easy to pick up without knowing more about the characters.

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
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Thursday’s Children – Nicci French

ThursdayschildrenTitle – Thursday’s Children

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.
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Waiting for Wednesday – Nicci French

Title – Waiting for Wednesday

Author – Nicci French

Published – 20 June 2013

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the third outing for psychotherapist Frieda Klein in a series that will total 8 titles. The series is shaping up well now and 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.

As Frieda is not currently working with the police (not too much about that or I will give away spoilers for “Tuesday“) the story is mainly split between an investigation Chief Inspector Karlsson is working on and Frieda’s domestic life. Karlsson is called to investigate the seemingly random murder of a woman in her own home. The initial interviews with family, friends and colleagues paint a picture of a perfect life – happily married, a devoted mother to three children, popular with everyone. It is Frieda who when pushed to share her thoughts with Karlsson suggests that everyone has secrets and finding what the victim was hiding will be the key. Finally the police investigation makes a breakthrough and they strip back more and more layers of this apparently idyllic family. Part of the fallout from this is the way that it affects the children and this is where Freida becomes involved, as her niece Chloe is friends with the victim’s son.  But with less input from Frieda this plotline becomes a more straightforward detective story.

Events in the previous books are taking their toll on Frieda and a chance description of a domestic scene in a consultation sets her off on a mission to discover the root of the story. She herself would be the first to admit that she is unable to explain her motivation. Her friends become increasingly concerned that she is in the midst of a breakdown and even she can see how irrational her behaviour is, but she seems to be unable to stop herself. It’s good to see that Sandy is still there for her but he must be a saint because you can’t really see what Frieda gives to the relationship.

There are several other plotlines too – so the reader is kept on their toes.

I’m sure that there is enough background for someone to pick up “Wednesday” first but the on-going stories mean that the first two books are worth reading from the beginning. I think this would give a much better understanding of Frieda and her relationships to the other main characters.

I wish I could put my finger on what it is about Nicci French books that I like so much. Other than telling a good story with a female lead I think it comes down to their ability to describe scenes in detail that from other writers would be boring and unnecessary, but in their hands just makes the books more vivid and their skill at bringing the characters to life on the page. Freida especially is a character that is growing on me – she seemed hard to like at first but she showing a more vulnerable side now and despite her profession she is complex and full of contradictions.

Another great read from this writing duo – roll on Thursday!

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy. You can see another review on the Crime Fiction Lover site.

Score – 4/5

Tuesday’s Gone – Nicci French

Title – Tuesday’s Gone

Author – Nicci French

Published – July 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

I wasn’t really won over by the first of the Nicci French ‘Frieda Klein’ series – Blue Monday. I didn’t quite take to the new character, or the prospect of 8 books featuring her, but I was still keen to read the second title, courtesy of Penguin Books.

I have to say that this might be quite a short review because I don’t want to give too much of the story away. The premise is that a naked corpse is found in the home of a woman with mental health problems who was recently released from hospital. With Chief Inspector Karlsson on the case, and the investigating team unable to get any sense from the woman, it was inevitable that he would approach Frieda Klein for help. Klein is dealing with her own problems, but is drawn to the case – wanting to make order out of the disorder.

The new mystery that Klein finds herself caught up in is intriguing and well told, with a good pace that doesn’t leave all the interest until the end of the book. There were one or two moments where I had to go back and read a section over a couple of times to follow the action – but I think that was my fault rather than the authors’! Klein still feels like a hard character to get to know – both for the other participants in the story as well as the reader, but she’s a little easier to understand and sympathise with in this second book. She also seems to be less of an insomniac, and there’s not so much walking the streets at night.

What surprised and pleased me was that although set around a year after Blue Monday there are threads from that story continued through this one. I’m not a fan of books which don’t reach a definitive conclusion, but if this continues it will make the series more interesting to follow.

Unusually I’m not sure if this would really stand on its own, I think there’s too much that depends on the reader being familiar with the story and characters in Blue Monday. It’s good for those of us who have read the first in the series because there’s not a huge amount of repetition, but for someone new to the series it might lack enough background.

This is a really good second book in the series and I half regret giving Blue Monday 4 out of 5, as this is a much better read. I’m looking forward to finding out what Wednesday brings!

It looks like Petrona agrees with me!

Score – 4/5

Blue Monday – Nicci French

Title – Blue Monday

Author – Nicci French

Published – 2011

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been reading the books from the writing duo of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French since, thanks to the irresistible cover, I bought their first novel “The Memory Game”. I’ve been hooked on their contemporary psychological thrillers ever since. The new title Blue Monday, however, is a departure for them – the first in a series (apparently of 8 titles) featuring  psychotherapist Frieda Klein.

Klein feels perhaps a little older & certainly more grown up than the central characters have been in the past. A professional woman, with her own practice, she’s an insomniac with a quiet and unhurried approach to things. She has a relatively new relationship which she’s taking slowly, and a home which is an escape from the troubled minds she deals with during the day.

The book opens with a short chapter set in 1987, describing the disappearance of a little girl on her way home from school and the fruitless search for her by the police. Shift to present day and we’re quickly introduced to Klein, walking the streets of London at night, and then Alan Dekker, soon to be a patient of Klein’s.

The pace then slows as we’re introduced to a few more minor characters in the story – Klein’s former mentor, a ukrainian builder, and some of Klein’s family. Klein begins her treatment of Dekker and as he opens up to her, she begins to suspect that his dreams may be related to a missing boy, a boy that he seems to have unwittingly described in accurate detail. Eventually Klein feels bound to tell the police of her suspicions, bringing her into contact with the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson.

Despite Karlsson’s skepticism he follows up on Klein’s information and then because of the similarities between the two cases, he introduces her to the sister of the little girl lost in 1987. Klein then becomes involved in the investigation in what seems to be quite an informal relationship with Karlsson (can that happen?).

There is one aspect of the book that I found particularly striking, and without wanting to give too much away (SPOILER ALERT) I thought the insight into the feelings of a small child were very well written. I also think that the main theme of the book is quite thought-provoking, and given time is something I’d be curious to find more about.

What I really like about the previous books by Nicci French was the feeling that it could be you caught up in the middle of whatever nightmare they were describing. You felt as if you were in the middle of the action, something Blue Monday lacks, I’m afraid. It’s a good twisting story, but it doesn’t have the nail-biting tension of the earlier titles. What worries me more, though, is that the writers will go down the tried and tested route which will see Klein become the target of whoever is being pursued. Let’s hope not.

The book certainly feels like it is doing quite a lot of scene setting for Klein’s character in the future and presumably her ongoing relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson. I feel as if I’m making some allowances, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the book, and I did, but not as much as their standalone thrillers.

Score – 4/5