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Blue Monday    by Nicci French order for
Blue Monday
by Nicci French
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nicci French is the pseudonym for the bestselling husband-and-wife team of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. They have written superb gritty thrillers (like The Red Room and Land of the Living) that present horror with an unusual degree of empathy. Now they brings us Blue Monday, first in a new series starring intriguing London psychotherapist Frieda Klein.

In Blue Monday, Frieda is drawn into two cases of abducted children, one recent and one very cold. The reader is shown both the immediate repercussions for the families involved and the longer term damage done to them. Frieda is a restless person, who roams the city endlessly - why does she feel the need to do this? She tells us it's 'So that she didn't have to talk, didn't have to be on show, be looked at and appraised.' One wonders about her backstory but little is revealed in this first episode.

Frieda has a new patient, Alan, who has strange dreams and feels disturbing urges. When they seem to her to be linked to the abduction of a small boy, Frieda feels impelled to speak to the police, leading to an abrasive encounter with DCI Malcolm Karlsson, who leads the investigation. He asks her to speak to the sister of the little girl who was taken two decades before. And she draws out a likeness from the sister's memory.

Enriching the story are Frieda's associates - her lover, Sandy, who wants her to follow him to the U.S.; her mentor Reuben who's having some sort of crisis; an eager young colleague, Jack, whom Frieda mentors; her sister Olivia and rebellious niece Chloe; and Ukrainian builder Josef who creates - and fixes - a hole in her office ceiling, and becomes a helpful friend.

As Frieda follows the psychological trail - 'Bits of nonsense, shadows of memories, strange coincidences, odd feelings, half-baked intuitions' - and Karlsson the physical one, their actions become the catalyst for a murder, and they find themselves in a race against time to save a child's life. Blue Monday is a wonderful mystery, based on a unique premise and with a nicely twisty ending. And Frieda Klein is a fascinating protagonist with unplumbed depths - this is a series I intend to follow closely.

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