Written by Sarah Pinborough — When a review book arrives with a snazzy silk eye mask, you can infer you’re in for some sleepless nights while reading it. I can’t say I missed any of my beauty sleep while in the midst of this tale – for me, it came afterwards. But more of that later.
Louise is a single mother who lives in London, works part time, and juggles her hours with caring for her son, Adam. She is a secretary at a psychiatrists’ practice and loves the job. And she’s about to get a new boss called David Martin.
Which is where things get complicated, because David and Louise have met before, just two days ago, in a bar, where they engaged in some pretty full-on snogging. But he is married, and his wife, Adele is model-girl beautiful and a doting partner. How can Louise have got things so wrong?
The love triangle goes squiffy when Louise and Adele literally bump into each other and an unlikely friendship is formed. What can the picture-perfect wife see in a dumpy single mum whose best friend is a wine glass? Thing is, Louise can’t get David out of her mind… and soon the pair are sleeping together. Louise is trapped in the middle and can see no way out. The deeper she gets, the more she realises that the David she thinks she knows is very different to the David who is husband to Adele. That David is controlling and unpredictable, violent even. What has she done this time? Can she help Adele? Does she want to?
I was first introduced to the work of Sarah Pinborough early last year, with the excellent 13 Minutes and it was among my top five novels of 2016. We previously gave a five-star rating to her historical crime novel, Mayhem. I love her taut writing style and canny way with characterisation. She also has a pleasing habit of leading her readers up the garden path. As the cover of my advance copy warned: Don’t trust this book; don’t trust this story; don’t trust yourself.
It’s a novel I’d been long anticipating and the author’s trademark style kept the pages turning at speed as the narrative swung, pendulum-like, between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ and from the widely differing perspectives of both Louise and Adele. Trust plays a huge part in the plot and you will have your cut out to uncover the truth of it all.
Dreams and sleep are also recurring themes (hence the eye mask the publisher sent with the book) and Pinborough explores the subject in depth. Night terrors, lucid dreams and broken sleep all have their part to play before the story is over. And that’s where my own sleep patterns went awry. Because this is no run of the mill thriller – it even has its own hashtag – #WTFthatending. It’s certainly a phrase which I pondered in the wee small hours, as I bemoaned the loss of a perfectly good story, skewed by a far-fetched denouement which I certainly never saw coming.
This is a novel that fits neatly onto the psychological thriller or domestic noir shelf – right up to those final few chapters, where things get more than a little odd. Pinborough an accomplished author, whose writing style entices the reader in and tends keeps them there. But she gambles here and for me it didn’t pay off. It felt like someone had burst my balloon and run off with all the birthday cake. Yes, it was that disappointing… And that’s such a pity.
Behind Her Eyes is on sale from 26 January. For an entirely different crime book, but also with sleep as a theme, try Too Dark to Sleep by Diane Gallagher.
CFL Rating: 2 Stars