French, Nicci - 'Waiting for Wednesday'
This is the third book in a series that began with BLUE MONDAY, and then TUESDAY'S GONE. WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY once again centres around the psychotherapist Frieda Klein. But, as a result of events in the previous book, Frieda is not present at the murder scene unveiled at the start of the book. At the crime scene, investigators DC Yvette Long and DCI Malcolm Karlsson find a health visitor (Ruth Lennox) has been murdered at her house. Her face has been badly beaten, and her family are left distraught. Was it a robbery gone wrong? Freida's colleague, Hal Bradshaw, a criminal psychologist, arrives at the scene, to give his opinion. He is a man with whom Frieda worked with on the case in TUESDAY'S GONE, and she doesn't have a very high opinion of him. Hal also has a difficult relationship with Malcolm, who similarly does not have much faith in his profiling, and would prefer to work with Frieda, but Frieda is on leave. Hal suggests that the murder is a burglary gone wrong, but in addition that the burglar was sending a message, literally that he had not only chosen to steal, but had decided to wipe the expression of the victim's face, and redecorate the room with blood, as a way of violating the perfect home he doesn't have. But, although a few items appear to have been taken, the woman was still wearing nice earrings and a necklace. A burglary gone wrong, or a murder staged to look like a burglary? Does the perfect housewife actually have a secret or two that mean this is a revenge killing of some sort?
Meanwhile Frieda is still recovering from events in TUESDAY'S GONE. Moreover, a child abductor and murderer she managed to unmask sixteen months ago, is still apparently stalking her. Bizarrely, he may have saved her life. Is he a stalker, or a protector? At her house, her friend Josef has decided (without consulting her) to present her with a new bath. He removes the old one, but then finds a lot of work needs to be done, before the new one can go in, depriving Frieda of her baths for some time. Additional chaos ensues, when various people, including her niece Chloe, decide to move in, as the book progresses. But this plot device links Frieda to the case of the murdered woman, as Chloe is a friend of the woman's son, Ted. And Ted starts to visit Chloe at Frieda's house.
Then, a new potential patient, Seamus Dunne, asks Frieda to treat him. After an initial session, she tells him that she can't help him, not believing him to be really ill. However this session turns out to be one of four, with four different psychiatrists (including Frieda's friend Reuben), to test if they can spot psychopaths. A set up, put in place by her rival Hal Bradshaw. But Frieda becomes obsessed with a story told by Seamus as part of the session, where he describes being in a position of power, while cutting the hair of his father. She visits all of the 'patients' to follow the story up and discover its origin, a story that turns out to have been told and re-told.
Finally, in this complex plot, is a set of interspersed scenes featuring a journalist called James Fearby. He has just managed to get a conviction for murder overturned, and the wrongly imprisoned man, Georgie Conley, has been released after seven years in prison. He was convicted of murdering Hazel Barton, an eighteen-year-old schoolgirl. Having succeeded in proving that Conley is innocent, Fearby is trying to find who the real perpetrator was, by following up deaths/disappearances of other young girls, with similar facial features.
A complex plot then, where different people follow up different murders. Eventually the links between different plot lines begin to merge, and a resolution follows. This was a hugely enjoyable book. Frieda is a delicate yet immensely strong character at the same time. She puts up with the onset of chaos into her life, but is glad when it is all over, and her house and her life return to some semblance of order. She is a caring and observant character, and it's her ability to observe and differentiate lies from the truth that is so important in trying to find out what's happened. The myriad of other characters, have their own strengths and contributions to make in a complex and absorbing mix of story telling. A good follow-up to TUESDAY'S GONE, and I'm already looking forward to the Thursday story.
Michelle Peckham, England