Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Review: 'Saturday Requiem' (Frieda Klein #6) by Nicci French

I love crime and detective novels. I remember being twelve and "borrowing" my first crime novel while we were visiting family friends. Everyone seemed amused about it until they realized I was reading about a criminal cutting out hearts. (I wish I could remember the title of this book, it was good!) This started a long tradition of me borrowing crime novels from that family whenever we went to visit, until I started buying them myself. So when I saw the latest Nicci French on Netgalley I knew I wanted to try it out, even if I hadn't read any of her previous Frieda Klein novels. Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 30/06/2016
Publisher: Penguin UK - Michael Joseph

Thirteen years ago eighteen year old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family. It was an open and shut case and Hannah's been incarcerated in a secure hospital ever since. 
When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment of her she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. 
And Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family; that something wasn't right all those years ago. And as Hannah's case takes hold of her, Frieda soon begins to realise that she's up against someone who'll go to any lengths to protect themselves . . .  
Saturday Requiem is the sixth addictive and intriguing novel in the Frieda Klein series by the bestselling author Nicci French. 
At the heart of every crime novel series has to be an interesting detective/psychologist/protagonist who can pull the reader through multiple novels and multiple crimes. Elizabeth George has her infamous Inspector Lynley and French introduces Frieda Klein to her readers in 2011 in Blue Monday. As far as a crime novel protagonist goes, Frieda Klein is a nice combination of genre tropes and subversion of those tropes. There are those aspects I love, like the frequent glasses of red wine, the beautiful houses in which they find time to think, and the flashes of brilliance, which can be found in Frieda. What makes her interesting is the fact she is a psychologist and therefore approaches the situations differently than the police characters do. It makes for an interesting dynamic throughout Saturday Requiem with Frieda both part of the system and working outside of it. The case at the heart of this novel is naturally also one which perfectly fits Frieda and the light that it allows French to shine on mental illness and the ambiguous role of psychiatric institutions was also very interesting. Hannah Docherty is a really interesting character and I wish there had been more time spent on her in the book.

Something that slightly put me off Saturday Requiem was that the reveal and the ending just didn't fit for me. Usually at the end of these kind of crime and detective novel the reader has built up a number of cases in their head against various characters, has made and let go of wild theories and in the last few chapters settled on a final suspect. For most of Saturday Requiem the reader is very much in the dark in the way that Klein is. That is in and of itself great because it keeps the reader on edge, but on the other hand it also makes the reader nervous the closer one gets to the end of the novel. When it got to the final few chapters of Saturday Requiem it felt like French got distracted by focusing on continuing the narrative that connects all the Freida Klein books, rather than finishing this novel's story first. The final reveal left me very surprised and non-plussed because I simply couldn't see it. Usually once the reveal happens all the little hints dropped throughout the novel become apparent and the reader can see how it was all set up. That didn't happen for me in Saturday Requiem which left me unsatisfied in the end.

The duo behind 'Nicci French' has been writing and publishing thriller and crime novels together since 1997 and very successfully so. Since 2011 they have been focusing on the Frieda Klein series whose titles follow the days of the week. What can be a danger with series like these is that it is impossible to start halfway through a series and still get what's happening in the protagonist's life. French did very well in rehashing those occurrences which were relevant to the plot of Saturday Requiem, such as reintroducing characters which first appeared in precious novels. As such I never felt like I was missing out but was only made curious to read the previous novels. I enjoyed having a female protagonist in series such as these which aren't necessarily rare but I still get happy whenever I find one. Although the first part of the novel takes some time to get going, there is a good speed to the novel which keeps the interest high. Similarly, the brief interjections of narrative from Hannah's mental institution focusing on its inmates is really interesting, although one wishes there was more of it.

I give this book...

3 Universes!

Overall I really enjoyed reading Saturday Requiem and did so rather quickly. Although it left me in some ways unsatisfied it has made me curious to check out the rest of the Frieda Klein series. I'd recommend this to fans of Nicci French as well as to crime fiction fans in general.

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