Nicci French: Saturday Requiem (2016) Frieda Klein Series 6

Those who follow this blog know how much I like the books of writer duo Nicci French. Their standalone novels and their Frieda Klein series.

I still think that the first two in the Frieda Klein series are the best but I did enjoy some of the others, even though Frieda’s life often took up much more space than the mystery itself. Not so in this book. From a mystery point of view, Saturday Requiem is one of the best in the series. Sadly, I liked it less than the others before because Frieda’s turned into a bit of a cypher. Her life took up minimal space. There was zero development on the personal front. That was a bit disappointing. In the last two books, the personal life was almost too much in the center and here, we got only glimpses.

The book starts when Frieda’s asked to visit Hannah, a patient in a psychiatric ward. The woman has been there for 13 years, ever since she was found guilty of savagely killing her whole family. The detective who had been working on the case back then, is under investigation and it’s possible that he made mistakes with this case. That’s why Frieda’s asked to try and talk to Hannah and tie up loose ends.

When Frieda visits Hannah, she shows every sign of being mad, but Frieda doesn’t think that she was always like this. It rather looks as if being charged with the murder and sent to a psychiatric hospital for life, may have caused her “madness”. Clearly, Hannah spends a lot of time in solitary confinement. Since the police do not want to reopen the case, Frieda, who doesn’t think Hannah is guilty, begins to investigate on her own.

Like in the other books of the series, there’s the shadow of the perpetrator from the first book looming in the shadows. Possibly he even enters Frieda’s house.

Overall, the book is suspenseful. Not unputdownable, but very readable.

It’s pretty obvious, the series is coming to an end, not only because it’s logical, given the titles of the books, but because this one ends with a major cliffhanger, something none of the other books in the series do. Nicci French is definitely gearing up for the finale.

If it wasn’t for this cliffhanger and the overarching story, I might not have picked up the next one. There are just too many great crime series out there that I still want to read. But then again, I want to see how it all ends and so I’ve already got Sunday Morning Coming Down waiting on my piles.

Here are the other reviews of the series

Blue Monday

Tuesday’s Gone

Waiting for Wednesday

Thursday’s Child

Friday on My Mind

Nicci French: Friday On My Mind (2015) Frieda Klein 5

Friday On My Mind

I just finished the fifth novel in Nicci French’s Frieda Klein series, Friday On My Mind. I really like this series although not all the books are equally good. Part of the appeal is that they are set in London, so, understandably I wasn’t too keen on book four, in which Frieda is returning to her childhood home and which therefore takes place mostly outside of London.

In this novel, we are back in London. It’s quite different from the other books, but I’m happy to say it’s one of the best of the series. Frieda isn’t only  looking for a perpetrator, no, she’s on the run and desperately trying to clear her name. A body has been found in the Thames. The dead man has a hospital tag with Frieda’s name around his wrist. His throat has been cut, so he’s clearly a murder victim. For various reasons, the police suspect Frieda.

Hiding in London proves to be very difficult. And dangerous. The police are hunting her and with CCTV everywhere, she might be discovered all too soon. But the danger doesn’t come from the police, it comes from the murderer who chases her as well.

As usual, Frieda does a lot of foolish things and puts herself and her friends in danger.

I really enjoyed this fifth installment. I liked the story and I like Frieda and her circle of friends who play an important role in this book.

Another aspect I enjoyed was that because Frieda was on the run, she came into contact with people who live on the margins of society and under precarious circumstances. This gave the book depth. On a side note—This is  the second UK novel I’ve read recently, in which the killing and/or abuse of homeless people plays a role. I felt tempted to google this and was shocked to find out how often this really happens. It’s appalling.

The sixth book is due in June (Saturday Requiem) but I will probably wait until it’s available in paperback.

Here are the links to the reviews of the other books in the series:

Blue Monday

Tuesday’s Gone

Waiting for Wednesday

Thursday’s Child

A Bunch of Mini Crime and Thriller Reviews

The Ice TwinsCop TownChemistry of DeathUntil It's OverDisclaimerMurder on the Orient EXpress

I went over my stacks of read books during German Literature Month and was startled when I noticed how many books, especially thriller and crime novels, I had read but not reviewed. I could probably write longer posts but decided to write a few very short reviews instead. That way, you might still hear about a book worth reading or one you should avoid and I don’t have to post every single day until the end of the year.

Disclaimer

Renée Knight’s Disclaimer is possibly the thriller disappointment of the year. The premise was interesting – a woman receives a novel in which the authors describe something that happened a long time ago and that she never told anyone. I think the book has two major flaws. One is that it’s not believable. I hate it when plot relies on one character suspecting another without questioning things. That alone would have annoyed me but I also thought the story was highly unbelievable. Sometimes a book can be salvaged through great atmosphere and description. Not so this novel. In my opinion that’s the second flaw of Disclaimer. While it’s said to be set in London, it might as well have been set on the moon. Not once did I see the city. Unbelievable story, wonky psychology, and zero atmosphere.

Murder on the Orient EXpress

Murder on the Orient Express was another disappointment. I picked it because I was in the mood to read a locked-room mystery and because I haven’t read any Agatha Christie in a long time. So far I’ve only ever read her standalone novels and one or two Miss Marple novels. While they might be formulaic, I still really enjoyed them. This was my first Hercule Poirot. I never picked them up because for me, as a native French speaker, the name is so silly. It sounds like poireau – leek – or poivrot – drunkard – . Plus Hercule? Really? I expected him to be on the boring side and that’s what he is. I wasn’t fascinated by his deductive skills. Still, it was a quick read and I loved the setting. I only found the murder and the way it was solved a bit lame. Still, if you like a great setting – a train in winter – and are in favour of cozy crime and whodunnits – especially locked-room mysteries – this might be for you.

The Ice Twins

The Ice Twins had a lot to offer. Stunning descriptions and atmosphere. After the death of one of their twin daughters, Angus and Sara Moorcroft move to a remote Scottish island. Such eerie, creepy descriptions and certainly not a place I would have chosen to live in, after the awful loss of a child. It gets creepier when the surviving twin begins to claim that she’s the other one. The part that affected me the most and which is the creepiest is the favouritism. While the father openly preferred one kid, the mother preferred the other. What does it mean, when you suddenly think that it’s not your favourite who has survived?  The Ice Twins was psychologically compelling. The descriptions are great. Unfortunately the end was a bit of a disaster. Not only was it disappointing and far-fetched, I also found it misogynistic. When I bought the book, I thought S.K.Tremayne was a woman but after finishing, I started to doubt that. And indeed, S.K. Tremayne is a man. I’m not surprised. The ending leaves no doubt.

Cop Town

With Karin Slaughter’s standalone novel Cop Town I finally enter the territory of the books I loved without reservations. Like Nicci French or Sarah Bolton, she is one of my favourite mainstream crime writers.  I’ve been reading her series for years, but when I heard she’d written a standalone novel, set in the 70s in Atlanta, I was interested immediately. What sounded particularly great was the research she’d done for this book. The period details are amazing. Her choices of two female protagonists make this a very feminist novel, as it’s in part a murder mystery – there’s a shooter killing cops – and a book about women on the police force, a workplace that’s dominated by white males who are sexist, racists, anti-Semites, homophobic . . . you name it. Into this explosive environment comes Kate, a rookie cop. She’s recently widowed, her husband died in Vietnam. Kate comes from an upper-class, Jewish family. The Vietnam angle, is another well-done angle.  Her first day is a shocker, but to the surprise of everyone, even her partner Maggie, she doesn’t give up. Maggie comes from a cop family. Her uncle and her brother have joined the force. They both didn’t want her to follow them in their footsteps and the aggression and violence she has to endure, are appalling. Notably her uncle Terry is the prototypical male white homophobic sexist racist. The shooter’s been active for a while, which infuriates the cops and even leads them to plant false evidence.  Maggie and Kate decide to take matters into their own hands. A dangerous idea. Slaughter’s writing is tight, as usual, the period details so well captured, the story is gripping. A remarkable achievement. It works as a crime novel and as a novel on the 70s, Atlanta, gender issues . . .  It’s shocking to think what women had to put up with to fulfill the dream of working in a male dominated  job. A word of warning—I’m not the most squeamish but there’s some violence in this book that was very hard to read and get out of my mind again.

Until It's Over

Everyone reading this blog knows how much I love the author duo Nicci French. I’m slowly reading my way through their novels. Surprisingly I wouldn’t have heard of Until It’s Over, if it hadn’t been mentioned by one of my readers a year ago (I’m really sorry I can’t remember who it was). I got it back then and kept it for later. A while ago, I read a review of it and that’s how I remembered I had it on my piles. I’m glad I read that review before reading the book because, with the wrong expectation, I might have been disappointed. They did something very unusual here. They wrote two distinct parts. Part one is told from the point of view of London Cycling Courier Astrid, part two from the point of view of the perpetrator. It wasn’t easy to adapt to part two because I loved part one so much. Astrid lives together with a group of friends in an old house, in an area of London that hasn’t bee gentrified yet. Suddenly people around her are murdered. What has it got to do with her? While the story is suspenseful, it’s not what I liked best. I liked to read about this group of friends who share a house. Loved the setting, which Nicci French captures so well- the bars, the parks, the houses. London is as much a character as the people. Part two is very good too, but I would have loved to go on reading from Astrid’s point of view. Once I had gotten used to the new narrator, I liked part two almost as much. I’ve read a lot of Nicci French’s novels. Some I loved, some I found OK; this was one of the best.

Chemistry of Death

The Chemistry of Death is another book that has been lying on my piles almost since it came out. For some reasons, I didn’t think I would like it because I got a bit tired of serial killer novels. In theory I would like them, because, for me, a great serial killer novel is like a realistic ghost or horror story. That’s why setting, atmosphere and mood are so important in this subgenre. Sadly, many authors just use the trope to avoid to have to dig for good reasons for murder and many of those “products” are as far from psychologically compelling as can be. However, there’s one thing I don’t like even in the best serial killer books —the showdown ending. All these books get frantic towards the end and there are recurring elements that are frankly annoying – e.g. hero/heroine tries to avoid killer and runs right into his arms. While The Chemistry of Death does have a formulaic ending, the rest of the book is so astonishingly well done, that it hasn’t only become one of the favourites of this year but I think it’s possibly one of the best crime novels I’ve ever read. I loved the mourning, depressed narrator, loved, the almost gothic descriptions of murder scenes and locations. The atmosphere is brooding, haunting. Don’t be put of by the serial killer thing— this is so well written and atmospheric, it would be sad to miss it.

Have you read any of these? Does anyone know a good locked-room mystery?

Nicci French: Thursday’s Child (2014)

Thursday's Children

I’ve been waiting to read Thursday’s Child, the fourth in the Frieda Klein series, until it came out in paperback. That happened just a few months before the fifth Friday on my Mind was published. It’s one of the rare series I’ve followed since the beginning. Here are the first three reviews Blue Monday – Tuesday’s Gone – Waiting for Wednesday

I think what surprised me the most, is that this book was so much better than the last and that it felt very fresh, and added a lot on Frieda’s private life and backstory.

Due to the nature of the crime she investigates, we learn a lot about Frieda’s past. Since Frieda is a psychotherapist, an old school friend contacts her because her daughter shows signs of distress. At first, Frieda is not willing to see the girl. For one, she wasn’t all that keen on her mother all those years ago and she’s not sure how she can help. In the end she accepts to see the girl anyway and what she hears is extremely shocking. Not only because something awful happened to the girl, but because what happened sounds exactly like something that happened to Frieda when she was the girls’ age.

Although Frieda’s left her hometown twenty years ago, hasn’t stayed in contact with any of her friends, and never spoke to her mother again, she decides to leave London and investigate what has happened to the girl – and maybe to herself. I’m one of those people who would never go to a school reunion and reading how Frieda went back and had to face her past, was an intense read. I also had a very complex relationship with my mother, and so, reading about her reunion with her mother was intense as well.

Unlike in most other Frieda Klein novels, London isn’t as important in this book as in the others, but it still plays a role. Frieda’s love life takes a surprising turn and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wonder if it was necessary to handle it that way and I’m very curious to see where she goes from here.

While the crime element is solid and gripping, it’s not the only interesting narrative strand. Following Frieda as she faces her troubled past was well worth reading. That one of the perpetrators of the first books is still following Frieda, added another, creepy layer.

Something I don’t like in crime novels is when there’s a final showdown. It’s a typical element in most psychological thrillers and Nicci French has used it before. Not in this one. That’s why it felt fresher. Frieda also didn’t put herself as much in harm’s way as she did in other books. That was always an element that annoyed me because I felt it had less to do with Frieda than with creating suspense.

If you like the series, you shouldn’t miss this. It’s the second best so far. However, I wouldn’t recommend to start with this one. You would maybe still enjoy the crime story but the part about Frieda’s life would not be as interesting.

Nicci French: Waiting for Wednesday (2013)

Waiting for Wednesday

If you follow this blog you know I’m a fan of crime writing duo Nicci French. Having read the first two in the Frieda Klein series and spotting number four on the shelves of a local bookshop, I had to finally read Waiting for Wednesday. I really like this series, despite the fact that this is the weakest of the three. It’s an in-between book, a warm up for what will come next. That doesn’t mean it’s not gripping, it’s just that there are two plot-lines, which run parallel, and Frieda isn’t really part of the main plot, but investigating something else.

The book starts strong. Ruth Lennox, a middle-aged housewife with an untarnished reputation and a slightly perfectionist streak when it comes to housekeeping, is found brutally murdered. Her smallest daughter, Dora, finds her when she comes back from school. Why would anyone want to kill a perfect mother and wife, a model neighbour? Maybe she isn’t as exemplary as everyone believes? DCI Karlsson investigates this murder, unfortunately not with the help of psychotherapist Frieda Klein, but with another therapist, Hal Bradshaw,  who hates Frieda’s guts. Although Karlsson is told not to use Frieda’s help, he goes to see her anyway, as he senses the assigned therapist is pompous and useless.

Like in the other books of the series, Frieda’s private life takes a lot of space. Her last case with Karlsson has left her wounded and somewhat traumatized. I can’t reveal too much because that would spoil book number two. In any case, she’s not safe. Or will not always be safe and she knows that.

Her home is Frieda’s refuge. She loves her small house in London, but in this book she hardly ever has it to herself, as it’s invaded by friends and family and finally even by the family of the murdered woman because her niece, Chloë, is friends with the oldest boy.

While Karlsson and his team feverishly investigate the murder, Frieda’s rival, psychotherapist Hal Bradshaw, plays a dirty trick on her, trying to discredit her and some other therapists. A minor thing someone mentions in this charade, makes Frieda look for a girl who has gone missing a while ago. During her investigation, her path crosses with that of a journalist who has spent his whole life investigating the cases of missing girls.

It’s typical for Frieda that she puts herself at risk, so, once again, she makes a narrow escape – that’s not a spoiler as book 4 is already out and we know she’ll survive. Frieda’s love life has gained more importance as well, although her boyfriend Sandy lives in New York.

The book switches from the Ruth Lennox case to Frieda’s investigations and her life. Since Nicci French are excellent at what they do, the book felt seamless. It may not have been as gripping as the last, but it sure put me in the mood to grab the next one right away.

I would recommend this book if you like the series, but I’m not so sure how well it works when you haven’t read the first two. Starting with this one isn’t a good option as book two would be seriously spoilt.

Here’s Guy’s take on the novel. 

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.

Nicci French: Tuesday’s Gone (2012)

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein thought she was done with the police. But once more DCI Karlsson is knocking at her door.

A man’s decomposed body has been found in the flat of Michelle Doyce, a woman trapped in a world of strange mental disorder. The police don’t know who it is, how he got there or what happened – and Michelle can’t tell them. But Karlsson hopes Frieda can get access to the truths buried beneath her confusion.

A few months ago I read and reviewed Blue Monday, the first in the new series written by writer duo Nicci French. I thoroughly enjoyed it as you can read here and was looking forward to the sequel. Tuesday’s Gone is the second novel in the series with psychotherapist Frieda Klein and DCI Karlsson. I didn’t expect it but I’m glad to say that this book was even far better than the last. The characters are more rounded, the story is much more suspenseful and some loose strands of the first book are nicely tied together. The only bad news is, you should read Blue Monday first as the sequel contains numerous spoilers, even mentioning the solution to part one.

Who is this man the police find in Michelle Doyce’s apartment, sitting on a sofa, naked and decomposed? The autopsy shows the man was murdered and since Michelle is a woman with a rare mental disorder it seems likely she killed him. Or at least the police would hope so as that would cut a lengthy investigation short and save a lot of tax money.

For some reason DCI Karlsson isn’t happy with this interpretation and asks psychotherapist Frieda Klein to talk to Michelle. Frieda is no expert in this type of disorder and consults with a specialist. As hard as it is to talk to Michelle, they find a way to communicate and it seems highly unlikely she committed the crime.

Frieda thinks it’s far more crucial to find out who the man was. It takes a while and they discover that his name is Robert Poole but when they inform his brother that they found his body they are in for a surprise. Robert Poole died six years ago. It looks as if the dead man on the sofa used a fake identity, had a lot of money transferred to a bank account in Poole’s name and withdrew it again on the day of his murder.

While the police are willing to pay Frieda for her work, like in the first book she does a lot of research on her own account. One cannot shake the feeling that a lot of what she does has something to do with personal atonement.

Once they find out that the victim was a con man and they start interrogating some of his victims, the book gets really interesting. There are many loose ends but they are all tied together in the end. Some elements of part two are still important in this part and will also play a role in the next.

We get to know Frieda much better in this book, some of her family history is revealed, her love life gets a new twist. DCI Karlsson and some other secondary characters are further developed. And once more the location, the city of London, plays an important part and we learn a few interesting historical facts while following Frieda on her nightly walks through her beloved town. While the book has a satisfying ending, there are clearly indications that there will be a third part soon.

I really enjoyed Tuesday’s Gone and could hardly put it down. While the first in the series had some minor flaws Tuesday’s Gone is as good as Nicci French’s standalones. This has turned into a really gripping series with complex, flawed but likable main characters.