This fourth instalment of the series that features Frieda Klein a psychotherapist who has been integral in helping the police in the previous episodes. This book is different with the crime link being introduced by an old classmate of Frieda’s when Maddie asks her to meet with her anorexic daughter, Becky. What Becky tells Frieda in her consulting rooms has the therapist confronting her own past to help those in the present.
I am a big fan of books that successfully link past actions to the present day and the Nicci French duo execute this storyline with aplomb. Frieda returns to the place where she grew up, visits her mother who she hasn’t spoken to for many years and revisits a wrong inflicted upon her when she was a mere schoolgirl. A crime that her mother didn’t believe and in an exact parallel once Becky is persuaded to disclose the truth to her mother, she isn’t believed either.
The authors also paint a picture of small town life perfectly with many of Frieda’s classmates still living in Braxton, the very town she disappeared from keeping no links with anyone, the trouble is with Frieda’s high profile in helping the police, they know far more about how the intervening years have treated her, than she does them. I loved the way old teenage friendships awkwardly jarred with the present twenty-three years on. The old allegiances still in place in some ways but for others time had broken the bonds as those teenage dreams had foundered in the harsh reality of life. When Frieda turns up interrogating them on where they were on the night when she was sixteen, and her house was broken into, she receives mixed reactions, after all they were all at the biggest event to hit Braxton, the band Thursday’s Children held a concert. But Frieda didn’t go, having rowed with her boyfriend she was the only teenager alone that night, or was she?
One of the reasons I love these books so much is the sheer variety of secondary characters and all the old favourites appear in this book too; Josef the builder with the kindest heart on the planet, Chloe Frieda’s niece who is edging slowly towards adulthood although still incredibly reliant on her aunt, Sasha a former patient, DCI Karlsson who has requested her help so often in the past and Reuben her mentor. Although these old favourites feature, their own stories complement rather than take over the main plot so that the reader can focus on the important elements to the story without becoming too distracted.
Due to the exploration of her own past, out of all the books in this series, this one comes closest to explaining why Frieda has such a spiky character, always keen to do the right thing, she has clearly buried a lot of pain from a young age but courageously battled on to help others. In main, apart from the crime this is due to her far more hateful mother, a woman who was a doctor but is now an embittered dying woman. Juliet Klein uttered words that had the power to chill me, her views outrageous, but sadly not as uncommon as we would like to believe although perhaps the world isn’t peopled by quite so many delinquent mothers as are scattered throughout this book!
I think this may be my favourite of the books in this series so far, it isn’t fast paced and full of action but a more thoughtful, and I would say truthful look at this particular crime, but not one I would recommend without reading the other’s first. Although the story itself would stand alone and it can’t be faulted on the number of suspects for this reader to wrongly convict, the way the secondary characters are linked to Frieda, particularly the most shadowy one of all, are threaded throughout the series a lot of the background needed to understand them would be lost.
Previous Books by Nicci French featuring Frieda Klein