Sunday, 3 May 2015

Book Review: FRIDAY ON MY MIND by Nicci French

Friday On My Mind

Title: Friday on my Mind (Frieda Klein #5)
Author: Nicci French
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Read: May 2015
Expected publication: June 24, 2015

Synopsis (Goodreads):

When a bloated corpse is found floating in the River Thames the police can at least sure that identifying the victim will be straightforward. Around the dead man's wrist is a hospital band. On it are the words Dr F. Klein.

But psychotherapist Frieda Klein is very much alive. And, after evidence linking her to the murder is discovered, she becomes the prime suspect.

Unable to convince the police of her innocence, Frieda is forced to make a bold decision in order to piece together the terrible truth before it's too late either for her or for those she loves. 

My thoughts:

Friday on my Mind is the fifth book in the popular Frieda Klein series written by husband & wife team Nicci French, and true to their usual style they have delivered another taut and tense psychological suspense story that penetrates deep into the unconscious and leaves an icy breath of dread in its wake. I am tempted to say that this one was my favourite in the series, realising that I have proclaimed the same about the last two books that came before – such is the addictive and compelling nature of French’s writing.

After leaving a trail of bodies behind in her wake in the last four books in the series and having had to face the demons of her own past, London-based psychotherapist Frieda Klein is confronted with yet another tragedy. A bloated corpse floating in the River Thames turns out to be her ex-lover Sandy, who is so decomposed that he can only be identified because he is wearing Frieda’s old hospital ID bracelet around his wrist. With no other clues to go on and considering the couple’s recent split, the police focus on Frieda as the only lead in Sandy’s murder, especially since it coincides with the disappearance of one of Frieda’s more troubled patients. Frieda is afraid that both incidents are connected to Dean Reeves, a dangerous man from her past who has been responsible for the death and misfortune of several people who have had conflict with Frieda. However, officially Dean Reeves is dead, and Frieda’s claims are being dismissed by police as delusional. When Sandy’s wallet is found hidden in one of Frieda’s drawers, Frieda becomes the prime suspect in his murder. She knows that to discover the truth she must evade police and set out on her own to investigate and find Sandy’s killer before another person gets harmed, even if it puts her own ordered life in jeopardy. Frieda Klein is on the run.

Over the course of the series, Frieda Klein’s character has really grown on me and can be summed up perfectly by the words of Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Hussein: “There is something odd about her.” Frieda wears her emotions like a dark cloak around her, firmly hugged to her body with mere snippets showing here and there, so that the reader is never quite sure what she is thinking. At times it makes her appear cold and heartless, until she lets small snippets of emotion show through the cracks, in her usual matter-of-fact voice:

“As was happening so often now, she had a sudden vivid flash of Sandy as he had once been, brimful of confidence and love. She saw the smile he turned on her. It was perhaps more painful to remember him happy than to recall him grim, angry and wretched. It almost took her breath away, the memory of what they had once had.”

A loner who is often abrupt and cold to the point of outward rudeness, Frieda can also be strangely warm and generous to the people she calls friends or random strangers she feels drawn to, giving insight into a kind, vulnerable side she shows only rarely. As an investigator, she is intuitive, methodical, fearless and determined, with an uncanny ability to read people without getting emotionally involved herself. There are no boundaries to what she will do in her quest for the truth, and she is not afraid to take action. By doing so, Frieda continues the theme running through most of French’s novels – a strong but troubled female protagonist touched by trauma who sets out on her own and takes action as her life spirals out of control. In the words of one of her friends:

“We know what Frieda would do because she’s gone and done it.”

Friday on my Mind features all of Frieda’s friends and foes from previous novels, taking up the story 18 months or so after the events of “Thursday’s Children”. And although it could be read as a stand-alone novel, I would recommend reading previous instalments in the series first to fully understand the characters’ backgrounds and motivations and get the full benefit of the story.

I have always loved Nicci French’s writing style, but more than ever, in the Frieda Klein series they have developed a voice which is uniquely theirs and quite different from other crime novels out there. Reflecting Frieda’s no-nonsense practical approach, the language is almost sparse, to the point and direct, not wasting unnecessary words on the emotions and inner feelings of characters. Instead, the book is driven almost solely by observation, dialogue and action, giving the reader the sense that the story is unfolding almost like an inner screenplay in front of their eyes. It is the skill of leaving certain things implied and left unsaid that French’s true talent lies, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks, keeping them engaged and owning the story. It also serves to maintain the constant tension and mystery that characterise French’s novels, since one can never be sure of the characters’ plans and intentions until they are in the process of carrying them out. Without being able to anticipate the characters’ next moves, the reader is taken on a fast-paced journey into the unknown, never sure where the next bend in the road will take them. The only advice I can give readers is to set plenty of time aside to enjoy this book – once you are on this journey you will not want to get off! I read it in one intense read-a-thon, so caught up in the action that I was unable to put the book down even with the prospect of severe sleep deprivation the next day. And it did not disappoint – a taut tale right until the very end, its constant tension and final twist made it well worth the journey. With the ending leaving the door wide open for Frieda to embark on yet another quest I am optimistic that the author duo will continue to delight their fans with further books in the series – after all, there are still two days of the week to cover at least!

Friday on my Mind is an addictive page-turner that will have you sit up late into the night reading. Very highly recommended and one of my favourite reads this year. 

A big thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Also see my review of Waiting for Wednesday


  1. That's quite a review, I really like this series but still need to read Thursday's Child.

  2. Agree with your comments. This is the first book in the series I've read, and it was also an advance copy. I will be reading more.

  3. hi I have just finished this and maybe I need to read the last couple of chapters again but to me it was disappointing that they didn't really tell us how Karlsson figured out who the killer was (and Frieda to a lesser extent) and why Sandy was so scared. I have read many of Nicci French's book and was surprised by the swiftness of the ending.