Review: Blue Monday by Nicci French

The first book in a planned series from husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French features therapist Frieda Klein as its nuanced protagonist. She is a very private person but spends her working life delving into other people’s secrets in an effort to help them cope. One of her new patients tells her something that she links to the case of a kidnapped child that has been in the media for many days and, with misgivings, she goes to the police with her idea. The detective in charge of the case is Malcolm Karlsson who, desperate not to be known as “the copper who didn’t rescue Matthew Faraday” and having no real evidence to go on, acts on Frieda’s vague speculations.

Although I read this book easily and quickly there was something about it that left me thinking I would be unlikely to seek out future books in the series. The best way I can describe my reaction is that I thought it had the feel of having been a book written by committee, and I’m not referring to the fact it has two authors. There just seemed to me to be a few too many details and features that had been carefully inserted to take advantage of current trends and marketing opportunities, and I felt like they took precedence over any story demanding to be told. Each (of the many, many) characters has the feel of having been very carefully chosen to offer as broad a cross-section as possible of each kind of demographic one might meet in a big city (and thereby appeal to the broadest possible cross section of readers). There’s one with a Scandinavian-sounding name (which had me hearing the wheels of a bandwagon rolling along), one immigrant builder, one self-harming teenager and so on but none of these are really dealt with in much depth. Even the book’s title is meant to offer some kind of branding that will link future titles together using days of the week but this is also a surface-only element as nothing at all is made of the title in this book.

The main plot of the book, the desperate search for young Matthew Faraday, is well-handled, if predictable in parts and has a satisfyingly complicated resolution. The use of snippets of story seen from the kidnapped boy’s point of view is restrained and therefore does add drama and intensity to this aspect of the story and the use of Frieda as the tenacious amateur sleuth adds originality to a crowded space. There is some exposure to some interesting scientific ideas that I would actually like to have seen further explored, perhaps at the expense of some of the more random elements of the story.

I wonder if I’ve been harsher on this than I usually am with first books in a series but this writing team does have a dozen standalone novels to their name (of which I’ve only read a couple) so they shouldn’t be making the same mistakes as a debut author might be forgiven for. In the end I enjoyed Blue Monday enough to read another one in the series if it crosses my path (as this one did for my face to face book club) but I’m not really interested enough to actively seek one out.

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Blue Monday has been reviewed at Euro Crime

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My rating 2.5/5
Author website http://www.niccifrench.co.uk/
Publisher Michael Joseph [2011]
ISBN 9780141970257
Length 401 pages
Format eBook (Kindle Edition)
Book Series #1 in Frieda Klein series
Source I bought it

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5 Responses to Review: Blue Monday by Nicci French

  1. Bernadette – Thanks as ever for your thoughtful review. What an interesting way to describe your reaction to this novel. I’ve read books that struck me that way as well (I admit, I hadn’t read this one yet), and you’ve expressed it quite aptly, I think – better than I could have. I’m sorry that you didn’t like this one better than you did, though. I’ve liked some of the French team’s other stuff… Maybe I’ll wait a bit on this one…

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  2. Kathy D. says:

    Thanks for your honest review. I’ll not rush to put this on my TBR list, which is unbelievably long at this point. For one reason, it’s chock full of Aussie writers and Nordic noir.

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  3. Maxine says:

    Agree with your take, Bernadette. S+N French/Gerard are a very professional and slick writing team, who have churned out some really good thrillers. However, although this book is an easy enough read and has enough in it to keep you reading (though the case is solved in effect by a massive coincidence of someone bumping into someone else in the street), one feels that it is just too trendy – frieda’s night walks, unspecified reason for falling out with family (cue plot in future book), careful insertion of a rebellious teenager to appeal to younger readers, etc. Yet I did quite like it. Incidentally they have often been likened to Scandinavian-style authors in the past and one of the pair is half Scandinavian though I can’t remember the details the authors spend time each year in Sweden (via their blog, etc).

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  4. I have only read one of their books, but as I remember nothing about it (except wondering why so many reviewers raved about them), I don´t think you are too harsh.

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  5. Pingback: Books of the Month – August 2011 | Reactions to Reading

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