Love at first sight can be blinding…
It’s said that the only people who really know what goes on in a marriage are the couple themselves. But what if even they don’t know the truth?
David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?
Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued and drawn into their orbit. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far a person might go to protect a marriage’s secrets.
Not so long ago, I read a twisty little YA mystery that went by the name of 13 Minutes. It was by a British author called Sarah Pinborough, and it had me hooked from the very first page. A thriller novel about the depth and difficulties of female friendships, jealousy, popularity and how memory can deceive you; it’s probably one of my reads of 2016. When I heard that Pinborough’s follow-up would not be another YA novel, but a return to adult fiction, I knew I’d have to break my (mostly) YA reviewing habits and give it a bash. It would be rude not to, right?
Behind Her Eyes is, at first glance, a familiar tale of domestic woe. I will stop myself from comparing it to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train because frankly, I am so sick of hearing those words in relation to every new psychological thriller book that hits the shelves. Yes, this book is a domestic thriller, but is it like Gone Girl or Girl on the Train? Not really. In this book, Pinborough delves into the beating heart David and Adele’s not-quite-right-marriage and by all accounts, they’re a pretty solid couple. Attractive and well-off, David is a respected psychiatrist and Adele is a homemaker with a talent for creating elaborate meals. As always, nothing is ever as it seems and behind closed doors something rotten plagues their relationship. Is David or Adele the bad guy? It isn’t until harried single mum, Louise, enters their orbit that things begin to unravel.
Teetering on a knife-edge between psychological thriller and science fiction, this book has pretty much everything that I look for in a satisfying mystery and just a little bit more. The writing is sharp and the pacing is steady throughout, with just enough teasing of information to keep you turning those pages long into the night. The decision to narrate the book from both Adele and Louise’s perspectives was a good one – adding to the general sense of unease that permeates the book and bringing a new flavour to the standard husband/wife construct that you usually find in domestic thrillers.
As far as characters go, David is a cold fish, Adele is odd and Louise is self-pitying and whiny. I didn’t really like any of the characters in this book, but then again, I don’t think you’re supposed to. The story is very much about Adele and Louise as opposed to Adele and David, which left me feeling emotionally disconnected to David’s character. Not that it mattered in the end, because the real meat of this book lies in the complexity of Adele and Louise’s duplicitous relationship, which becomes more involved and potentially devastating than the extramarital affair. As usual, Pinborough really shines when she’s writing complex women and depicting the myriad of ways in which female friendships can both satisfy and ruin us.
The marriage-in-chaos theme is one that I expect we’re all pretty familiar with now, becoming the setting of choice for many a thriller writer since the rise of Flynn and Co. However, Behind Her Eyes takes that now-familiar construct and turns it inside out. I’m not going to elaborate, because this is the sort of book that you should definitely go into blind. It’s being marketed using the hashtag #WTFthatending and I have to say, “WTF” is a not far off of the reaction I had once I’d arrived at the end of the book. I even read it again to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.
Although I love the clever double twist that is so characteristic of Pinborough’s skilful and thorough plotting, I did find myself racing through the book in a desperate bid to get to the end as soon as possible. If I hadn’t been so concerned with the promised ‘what-the-heck’ moment, I probably would have taken some more time over the clues that were almost certainly left by the author along the way. I also probably would have gotten a bit more sleep over those two days, but hey ho.
If you’ve got an open mind and enjoy being caught completely by surprise, then Behind Her Eyes is definitely one to keep your own eyes peeled for. A curious, boundary-pushing book that will certainly have thriller fans abuzz come 2017.
Stars out of five:
- Publisher: Harper Fiction/Flatiron Books
- Pages: 320
- Publication Date: 31st January 2017 (expected).
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. If you’d like to read my review policy, click here.*