New Book – Thursday’s Child by Nicci French

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I started this new case for Frieda Klein last night and I am already hooked.

Frieda receives the visit of an old school friend, Maddie. She tells her about her daughter Becky, who has stopped eating, skips school lessons, and is bitter. Frieda doesn’t promise anything, but she agrees to see the girl. When Maddie goes to Frieda’s house for some informal conversation, Frieda realizes there is something wrong with the girl. She talks about being disgusted with food and being afraid of the dark. Frieda thinks that Maddie should see a proper psychoanalyst, but Maddie is adamant it should be Frieda. Reluctantly, Frieda agrees to have a session with Becky, who finally tells her that one night she woke up to find a stranger above her. He was wearing a mask and raped her, and when he left, he told her that nobody would believe her. It turns out that it is true to some degree. Maddie calls on Frieda and the woman is hysterical, thinking that Becky has made up the story and Frieda has made her daughter worse.

What we learn shortly afterwards when Frieda goes to see Reuben is that Frieda had a very similar experience. When she was sixteen, she was also raped by a stranger wearing a mask and he told her that nobody would believe her. Her mother didn’t believe her at the time, and this might be the reason why Frieda ran away from home over twenty years ago and has never returned. She realizes that she has to tell her friends about this, so apart from Reuben, she tells Josef, emails Sandy, and talks to Karlsson. She tells Karlsson that a few years after her rape a man was arrested, and she believed that this one was her rapist, but he died. Now that Becky has told her about her rape, identical to hers, she thinks that the man is till in the loose and he might have been raping girls since then.

Sandy returns from the United States, intending to find a job in London and live near Frieda. Her email triggered that decision, and he goes with her to Braxton, the town where she lived as a child. They try to talk to the police there about her case and Becky’s, but Frieda is dismissed. During this visit she also goes to see her mother that she hasn’t seen in twenty-three years. Frieda’s mother, Juliet Klein, used to be a GP, and she is quite cold towards her daughter. I find her quite unlikeable, and I can see something from Frieda in her. Even though Frieda has plenty of friends, I find her quite cold too. Their reunion is quite frosty, and when Frieda asks her about the night when she was raped, the woman becomes angry. Frieda wants to know if she heard anything since she was in the house when the man sneaked into her room, but her mother won’t answer that. Frieda also realizes that there is something wrong with her mother, and she fears that there is some brain damage that makes her appear forgetful, distracted. So she returns another day to take her to the hospital for a brain scan, and even though the woman is contrary at first, she finally relents. I don’t know what Juliet Klein’s feelings for her daughter are, but I think that deep down she is glad to have her daughter back even in this way. I imagine she is too proud to say how she feels. I can’t think how a mother can let so much time pass without worrying about her daughter. Apparently, Frieda ran away after the rape; she was sixteen or so. How couldn’t Juliet do anything about her? I find that incredible.

Frieda also goes to see Becky, who admits that she is not well, but is better, and back in London Frieda gets her email in which she tells her that she intends to go to the police and she wants to find some professional help. The tone is not grim, but quite optimistic. But then something terrible happens. Maddie finds her daughter in her bedroom hanging from the ceiling. The police think the girl has committed suicide and Maddie blames Frieda, but Frieda thinks there is something sinister in her death. She is sure Becky wasn’t suicidal, and she wants to prove it even though the police once again dismisses her. She goes to see Karlsson, telling him that she intends to investigate Becky’s death. Sandy is not happy about it. He thinks she should put the matter behind her, and move on.

Then Frieda does something that I didn’t expect. She breaks up with Sandy, claiming that their relationship is over, and even though she loves him, she wants to be alone. Sandy is hurt, reproaching her that he has left everything for her, but Frieda rightly says that she never asked him to do that. I am shocked that Frieda suddenly breaks up with him, and she appears callous doing this to him now. Yet, I trust Frieda’s sense, and I think there must be a reason why she is breaking up with Sandy. In previous books I also disagreed with some of Frieda’s actions, but in the end she proved to be right about what she was doing. So I imagine there is a reason for this break-up, and I think it is not just what Frieda is telling Sandy.

The plot is fascinating. I am intrigued to see who raped Becky. If it is the same man that raped Frieda, he can’t be young. And why did he kill Becky? Was it because the girl intended to go to the police? Who knew about it? Was her rapist someone Becky knew? I wonder if her mother has a boyfriend or a lover. We don’t know much about Maddie other than she divorced Becky’s father a long time ago. Both Maddie and Juliet, Frieda’s mother, were single mothers,  so maybe there is a pattern there. Could the rapist be someone who knew both Maddie and Juliet, and he knew about their daughters and where they were?

Apart from that, Frieda also learns about Chloë. She is in a relationship with Jack, Frieda’s student. There is a difference in age – nine years – but Chloë doesn’t care. She only worries that Frieda wouldn’t approve of it, and even though Frieda tells her that she is not angry or upset, the girl keeps going on and on over the same. I like Frieda’s niece, and I like the relationship between her and Frieda. I wonder if this new relationship of hers is just a way to draw attention. Now Chloë is eighteen and not a child anymore, but she has always been quite a complex character, especially in her relationship with her mother Olivia.

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