Nicci French: Secret Smile (2004)

I really like Nicci French or I wouldn’t have picked the third book in such a short time. The last two I have read were the first two installments of the new series, Blue Monday and Tuesday’s Gone. Both were really good books. Unfortunately that’s not exactly the case here. Secret Smile has a lot of what I truly like about Nicci French but it’s painfully unbelievable. Still, call me weird, I liked it.

The story, if one doesn’t want to spoil the book, is told in a few sentences. Miranda has been dating Brendan for three weeks when she catches him reading her diary. She immediately ends the relationship. In a way she is relieved because he annoyed her. He was far too obtrusive and possessive. Brendan takes the break up very badly, still she manges to get rid of him. Or so she thinks. A few weeks later he is introduced to her as her sister’s new boyfriend. She is quite shocked and the idea to have to see him regularly really bothers her but on top of that Brendan pretends that he ended the relationship.

What follows is at first manipulation, then pure psychological terror. This premise as such isn’t unbelievable but what is unbelievable is the fact that Miranda doesn’t try to clarify right away who broke up with whom and when she does, nobody believes her anymore.

I always find it annoying when a whole plot relies on one person’s silence, a silence at that which isn’t realistic but has to be maintained in order to get the plot moving. If you can forgive this major flaw or if it is in character with you – let’s say you’re the type who always speaks up too late – then you might not find this unbelievable and would enjoy the book because I think there are a lot of really appealing elements in it. Nicci French is really good at creating atmosphere. The change of seasons is captured well and there are a lot of scenes in which Miranda is on her own and they are all nicely created. Plus she is an interesting character. She is independent, attractive, makes a living as a decorator, all things which work quite well.

Despite the fact that there are unrealistic elements, Secret Smile was a page turner and I really wanted to find out how it would end. Surprisingly the end is different from what I expected which was a pleasant surprise.

As you can see, a mixed bag, but still an enjoyable, quick read.

This is my first contribution to Carl’s R.I.P. VII. Here are the links to the posts of the other participants.