Review: House of Correction by Nicci French


Title: House of Correction

Author: Nicci French

Published: 27th October 2029, William Morrow

Status: Read October 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

House of Correction is the latest standalone thriller from husband and wife writing team, Nicci French.

“She wanted to say: this isn’t real. I’m not one of you. I don’t belong here.”

Accused of murder and remanded to prison when the body of a man is found in her garden shed, Tabitha Hardy is certain the authorities will quickly realise their mistake and let her go. When her court-appointed lawyer explains that the police believe they have the evidence to convict her and advises Tabitha to plead to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, Tabitha fires her, determined to prove her own innocence.

Proving her case seems impossible, Tabitha has a history with the dead man that ostensibly gives her a motive, and no real alibi, her memories of the day are indistinct, lost to the fog of her depression. Impulsive, with few interpersonal skills, Tabitha is her own worst enemy as she tries to make sense of the evidence, and search for witnesses to help her.

French has a talent for devising complex characters, and Tabitha is a complicated young woman. Not particularly likeable or trustworthy initially, she is the sort of character that grows on you. She’s a loner, not very self-aware, and instinctively aggressive but also determined, and forthright and I could not help but admire her by the end.

There in fact few likeable characters among the cast. Several of the villagers are wholly unpleasant, others are revealed as opportunistic or weak. Tabitha’s only real support comes from her monosyllabic cellmate, who is released before Tabitha’s trial begins, and plays a surprising role in court.

The mystery is certainly compelling, cleverly plotted this one is not easily guessed. The claustrophobic settings of the prison and courthouse, and the ‘ticking clock’ heighten the suspense, though the start is a little slow. The story is quite grim at times, but also darkly funny, especially during the latter half of the story.

I found House of Correction to be a gripping and entertaining read, though I think it will have both its fans and detractors,

++++++

Available from William Morrow

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Indiebound

Also by Nicci French reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: Losing You by Nicci French

Title: Losing You

Author: Nicci French

Published: January 28th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

On the morning of Nina Landry’s fortieth birthday, just hours before she and her children are due to fly out to Florida for a vacation, fifteen year old Charlie disappears. At first Nina is simply irritated that her daughter is nowhere to be found on the tiny island off the coast of England on which they live, but as time runs on she becomes increasingly convinced that something has happened to Charlie …something terrible.

While the story takes place over less than a day, I devoured Losing You by Nicci French in about two hours, breathlessly accompanying Nina in her search for her missing teenage daughter. What begins as an ordinary, if chaotic, day as Nina’s car plays up, as she’s trying to finish packing for their trip, as her depressed cousin/dog sitter arrives, as she unexpectedly hosts a few dozen people for a surprise party organised by her daughter, as she fields calls from her belligerent ex-husband, turns surreal when Nina realises Charlie is not simply late, but missing.

One of the most difficult things I have found about being a mother to teens is that they have areas of their lives that no longer include me, and even those that they deliberately exclude me from. I’m not always confident that I have taught them enough to independently make good choices and to protect themselves from situations, or people, that could threaten their well-being. Charlie, who Nina describes as ‘recalcitrant, volatile, emotional, romantic and intense’, seems more likely than most teenagers to keep secrets, especially when you factor in the issues with her father, who has recently abandoned the family, and her mother’s new relationship. As it happens, none of what Charlie has kept hidden is particularly earth shattering, but her secrets, and the secrets of others, do play a part in unraveling the mystery.

I empathised with Nina’s frustration with the police who are initially content to dismiss Charlie as a runaway, and are incredibly patronising as they do so. Objectively I understand the need of the police to gather the facts and plan the investigation, but in Nina’s shoes I think I too would disregard their orders and do what I could to unearth anything that could provide answers.

Losing You is not perfect, there was for example, the odd character I thought was superfluous, but Nina is relatable and convincing as a panicked mother, and the pacing is superb. A quick thrilling, read.

++++++

Available from William Morrow

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Booko I Book Depository

Also by Nicci French at Book’d Out

 

Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

 

Title: The Lying Room

Author: Nicci French

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Lying Room is the first stand alone mystery thriller from Nicci French (the husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) since the conclusion of the Frieda Klein series.

When Neve Connolly discovers her married lover murdered in his pied-à-terre she takes a deep breath and then works methodically to remove any trace of herself from the crime scene, before returning home to her husband and three children.

“He was dead. he had been murdered. But it wasn’t about her or them. That was irrelevant to whatever it was that had happened here.”

The Lying Room is a taut character driven mystery with its focus on Neve’s desperate attempts to protect her family, and herself, from the consequences of her lover’s murder.

“There was no getting away from it. She would have to get on with her life and behave the way an innocent person would behave. The fact that she was innocent–innocent at least of the murder–was no help at all.”

The author’s characterisation is generally strong and believable. A busy wife, mother, employee and friend, Neve is an ordinary woman caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and I could empathise with her impulse to protect her family, despite her obviously shaky relationship with her husband, and daughter. Her stress and fear Is palpable as Neve frantically strives to project a sense of normalcy, even while chaos descends on her home, in the form of a parade of unwanted houseguests, and surprise visits from DI Hitching.

“Even the truth felt like a lie now.”

There are plenty of red herrings in The Lying Room to keep any armchair detective guessing. Aware that DI Hitching strongly suspects she is somehow involved, Neve eventually becomes determined to identify the killer herself, and finds herself clumsily investigating her family, and friends. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer, or their motivation, until quite late in the story, though subtle clues are present earlier.

“Almost every part of the police investigation was wrong or misleading, the crucial evidence had been removed or destroyed. Their narrative of events was entirely false. But after all of that, the conclusions were correct.”

A well written, clever, and gripping novel, The Lying Room is an entertaining mystery.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository

 

Also by Nicci French reviewed at Book’d Out