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The Other Side of the Door    by Nicci French order for
Other Side of the Door
by Nicci French
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nicci French is the pseudonym for the internationally bestselling husband-and-wife team of Sean French and Nicci Gerard, whose previous thrillers include Killing Me Softly, Secret Smile, Catch Me When I Fall, The Red Room, The Safe House, Land of the Living, and Losing You.

In The Other Side of the Door, they employ a technique they have successfully used before. After dropping their lead, music teacher Bonnie Graham, and the reader in a seemingly impossible situation, they then alternate flashbacks with current events to show how Bonnie got there and what evolves from that initial disaster. This suspenseful thriller opens on Bonnie trying to decide what to do with the body of a man who had been her lover. Now it's lying on the rug of her friend Liza's flat (Bonnie's been watering the plants in Liza's absence overseas) and she can't deal with it alone.

How did she get into this awkward situation? It all starts at the beginning of the school summer holiday, when Bonnie agrees to her friend Danielle's request to put together an informal band to play at her wedding. The first one she asks is her best friend Sonia, a chemistry teacher who can sing. Next is Neal, a friend of a friend and a guitarist, followed by talented music student Joakim and Joakim's father Guy. Finally Bonnie's ex-boyfriend Amos joins the group as does Hayden, a professional musician. Initially they practice at the home of Bonnie's friend Sally. There's a great deal of tension in this novice band along with shifting relationships.

So what does Bonnie do with the corpse? She inveigles Sonia into helping her and they decide to dump it, rolled up in Liza's rug and weighed down with rocks, in a reservoir. It's a bit of a farce as these incompetent criminals argue over methods. First they leave the victim's car in airport parking, but later Bonnie second guesses that decision and moves it. Of course the police are soon involved and the questioning begins, while the reader tries to guess what really happened and who did the deed? Was it Bonnie herself and, if not, which of her fellow band members (none of whom got along well with the victim) is a murderer?

The authors tantalise the reader with these questions, drawing out the suspense and showing a variety of motivations amongst potential suspects. Eventually Bonnie herself uncovers the shocking truth of what transpired, but is uncertain how to proceed. Then Liza returns from Thailand and all bets are off. Though my favorite of Nicci French's novels is still Land of the Living, I found The Other Side of the Door engrossing and kept turning its pages to find out how it could possibly all end.

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