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Nicci French is the pen name of the husband and wife writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The main genre they write in is mystery/thriller. This is the second book of theirs that I have read and it is frankly worse than the first (which is also reviewed on here). There are several people who rave about them as authors hence my decision to give them another go with this outing.
This particular novel is the second novel with the character the psychologist Frieda Klein. This is where I hit a bit of a personal problem as I have not read the first novel with this character I feel I missed some of the back story about her. I have, however, tried to ignore this fact for the purpose of this review.
Whilst visiting making her rounds a social worker stumbles on the dead body of a man in an elderly lady's sitting room. The lady concerned is rather confused and is unable to say who he is or why he is there. For the big bosses in the police this is an open and shut case. Deem Michelle Doyce, the good lady concerned, guilty but mentally incapable of standing trail and send her to the hospital wing. Frieda Klein is not so sure, something doesn't add up about the deceased and why he was there.
Frieda is seen as a leading pain in the bum by those high up in the police but she knows she is right on this one. First find out who the dead man was then what he was doing there. This is not going to be easy as she delves deeper into the case she finds that it isn't going to be as easy as she thinks and with her past back to haunt her will she find out the truth in time?
What I thought of it:
In general I felt this novel was on the whole fairly well written as far as the writing style goes and whilst perhaps some of the background of the main characters is missing it does work as a stand alone novel. The main plot works but is very formulaic and there are too few plot twists to keep you guessing. I feel the resulting story is fairly light and easy to read but not all that engrossing. There is the occasional jump to a sub plot which at first appears to be a totally different story and it only really ties in about ¾ of the way through the novel. There is also perhaps far too much padding about Frieda's personal life and her involvement with her sister-in-law, Olivia and Chloe, her niece which can detract from the main plot.
Many of the other characters used do work well particularly those of Olivia, Frieda's rather ditzy sister-in-law and her close friends, in particular the ever helpful Josef with his broken English. Some on the other hand occur so sporadically that it is hard to recall them. Whilst with some, such as Maggie Brennan, the social worker we meet right at the start of the novel, this is of little consequence but for others it does mean you either have to keep a note of who they are or flick back thorough the book to remind yourself. The over use of secondary or even tertiary characters is a problem in many novels not just this one but here I found there were far too many of them.
Whilst the authors are able to gain sympathy from the reader for Frieda for what she has been through (I assume in the first novel) she is in my opinion one dimensional a real misery and has all the personality of a grapefruit. At times the sympathy for her is lost due to the methods she uses during her own investigation. It is as if she sometimes forgets she is not actually a police officer or that she deliberately over steps the mark.
Whilst the chapters themselves are quite short so it gives you enough places to put it down for the night I certainly would not describe the novel as unputdownable (is that a word?). Whilst reading it I went through spells of being interested in the story to one of finding it as dull as ditch water. There are a few plot holes in the story, some of which look like they have been made by an exploding 25 lb tank shell whilst others are only clear to those with specialisms in particular fields (I won't go into these as it will give far too much away). There was really little to no suspense built up in the novel and the ending was rather rushed and it was as if writers block had set in or it was rushed to fit the deadline. This I felt was a major let down. Whilst this type of ending has probably been used so that the third Frieda Klein novel can pick up where this has left off I have to say that if this is the best they can do perhaps this series is a dead end and to give up on it now before they lose all credibility.
Whilst this is not exactly badly written it isn't going to win any prizes either. For me it was a bog standard run of the mill novel which did little to encourage me to buy more of their work. The plot holes could have been avoided with better research and the amount of plot detracting family stuff could have been thinned out.
The end was a let down and the pacing was at times all over the place. A novel which for me promised much but never really got going. Even having said that I have been generous and given this 3/5. Although I think 2.5 would have been more appropriate.