Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

“We’re taught to beware of strangers,” she said. “It’s our friends most of us should worry about.”

Author Nicci French is an amalgamation of names for writing team, husband and wife Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, and together they’ve written a number of books of domestic, psychological  suspense and crime. I first across “Nicci French” through film adaptations, and curious, I turned to the books and have read several. A few years ago, a new crime series was launched which featured a London based psychotherapist Frieda Klein. First came Blue Monday, then Tuesday’s  Gone, and this is number three in the series: Waiting for Wednesday. Given my interest in books featuring psychotherapists, naturally I’m in for the series.

Waiting for WednesdayWaiting for Wednesday finds Frieda Klein recovering from injuries she suffered in Tuesday’s Gone. She’s been replaced as a consultant for the police by her enemy, snide, pompous Hal Bradshaw. So while her professional life is in the toilet, in her personal life, she’s in a long-term, but long-distance relationship with New York based Sandy. The book begins with the brutal murder in the suburbs of Ruth Lennox, a middle-aged woman, a seemingly perfect person–an excellent wife and mother, a health visitor for the local authority, and the epitome of respectability. Clues at the scene hint that this is a burglary gone wrong, but Detective Chief Inspector Malcolm Karlsson soon has reason to doubt the easiest solution.

While Karlsson and Detective Constable Yvette Long become embroiled in the murder of Ruth Lennox, another plot thread follows retired journalist Jim Fearby, a man who for years has relentlessly campaigned for the release of convicted murderer, George Conley. Conley was arrested near the body of a dead eighteen-year-old girl, and although he eventually confessed, Fearby is convinced that Conley is innocent. He believes that the dead girl was just one victim of a serial killer who operates by grabbing his pedestrian prey in lonely country roads.

The plot juggles the investigation behind the Lennox murder and Jim Fearby’s hunt for a serial killer. Also, of course, there’s also Frieda with a tarnished professional reputation, and now persona non gratis as far as Karlsson’s boss is concerned. Frieda becomes involved with the Lennox murder through a personal connection, and unfortunately that only serves to fuel Hal Bradshaw’s enmity.

As a series novel, Waiting for Wednesday shows the difficulties writers face when bringing readers up to speed. Initially synopses of past events cover an explanation for Frieda’s injuries and  exactly why she’s no longer paid by the police as a consultant. Readers have either read the earlier novels or not, and the explanatory passages are an annoyance if you’re read the other books.

The book’s title, Waiting for Wednesday, struck me as an interesting choice, because that’s just what the book seems to be–we’re waiting for something to happen, and the book seems, more than anything else, a breather novel in between catastrophes. For those who’ve read the earlier novels, the thing we’re waiting for  involves Dean Reeve, a major character in Blue Monday, a dangerous man who’s out there somewhere on the loose, watching Frieda, now acting like one psycho deranged guardian angel as he bides his time for some bigger agenda. While this novel includes a number of dead bodies and the hunt for a serial killer, somehow all the action seems overwhelmed by the evidence that Dean is still out there. The result is that when the solution to the serial killings arrives, it arrives with an anticlimactic whimper–not a bang.

Frieda was established as a recluse in Blue Monday, but now her life is chaotic and completely out-of-control. Her home, a former sanctuary, now gets more action than Grand Central Station, again with the result that the book seems to be waiting for something to happen… something to change. And then just how does Frieda make a living? It’s certainly not by seeing patients, although the odd one pops up occasionally. Again there’s the sense that a big storm is on the horizon but it doesn’t appear here in this novel; it’s brewing.

In the future, Frieda’s life must either get sorted or implode. Dean must either make a serious move in Frieda’s sphere or bugger off and forget his obsession. Frieda must decide whether or not to commit to Sandy and move to New York or else end this long distance romance and spare herself from his annoying e-mails. Many things have to happen, but none of them happened here.

When Frieda is finally allowed on the crime scene  (another problem with the book–after all, exploring the criminal mind, and not child-minding is what she does best), the novel lights up as she discusses her insights into the life of the murder victim, Ruth Lennox with Karlsson:

“There’s nothing here she wouldn’t want to be seen,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I always think that nobody’s life can tolerate a spotlight shone into its corners.”

“But?”

“But from everything you tell me and everything I’ve seen, hers seems entirely ready for the spotlight, don’t you think? As if this house were a stage.”

“A stage for what?”

“For a play about being good.”

“I’m supposed to be the cynical one. So you mean you think nobody can be that good?”

“I’m a therapist, Karlsson. Of course that’s what I think. Where are Ruth Lennox’s secrets?”

Another strength of the novel is character of Jim Fearby, a man so obsessed with finding a serial killer who may or who may not exist, that the rest of his life disintegrates without him even noticing. When Fearby meets Frieda, there’s a meeting of obsessives, and together their skills mesh to discover the truth. Waiting for Wednesday–the solution to the Lennox murder, and even the hunt for the serial killer (whose identity I guessed) seemed lethargic when compared to Blue Monday, but I’m hoping the quality improves for the next novel in the series.

 Review copy

 

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12 Comments

Filed under Fiction, French Nicci

12 responses to “Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

  1. Thank you for this discussion, which has reminded me how much I’d like to sample French’s writing and Blue Monday.
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

  2. I really liked the first two. Did you ever get to Tuesday’s Gone? I’m looking forward to reading this as well. It seems it’s a bit more flawed than the first two but still pretty good overall.

  3. Brian Joseph

    Neat idea to name each book of the series after a different day of the week.

    I am a compulsive “must read series in order” type so the synopsis of what has gone before would annoy me too.

    The sense that something bad is looming in the future is something that I often like in stories.

    • Yes, I’m not sure what the point is with the days of the week. The first title, Blue Monday seemed to go with the mood of the novel, so perhaps that’s what the link is: mood.

    • It’s a problem with series novels. Do you bring up readers to speed or hope they work it out? It’s particularly difficult here as while this book covers a separate murder case, crimes from the first book still linger, so it’s not as though each book is separate with just the lives of repeat characters to worry about.

  4. The titles of the series sound like a song by The Cure. Monday was blue. Wednesday was definitely grey according to your lukewarm review. So, by Friday, Frieda will be in love, that’s my guess.

    I wonder how writers write books together. Do they bounce on each other’s idea? Take turns to write chapters? How do they compromise to have the same vision of their characters?

    • I don’t know how they operate. I once read an interesting article on husband and wife team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and how they work on translations. It was more or less a back and forth thing until they agreed.

  5. It sounds very much a continuation piece of the sort you sometimes get in series. Showing some fallout from previous books, setting stuff up for the next book, giving the characters a little breathing space.

    Fine if you’re already committed, but not as a rule a good standalone choice. It sounds like this one may have erred too much on hitting the pause button and not enough on moving things forward.

    • Yes, if the bigger issue is someone more or less off the page, then the book loses its intensity. I hope the pace picks up for the next one in the series. This also probably explains why Rebus HAD to retire and come back (refreshed)…

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