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Monday, July 30, 2018

Review of BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

2.5 Stars
This book is described as a psychological thriller but this is misleading; it should be described as a paranormal thriller.

The story is narrated from the perspective of two women, Adele and Louise.   Louise, a single mother, meets David in a bar and flirts with him only to discover the next day that he is her new boss.  She literally bumps into Adele, David’s wife, and the two become friends though Adele wants their friendship kept a secret because her husband “’can be a bit funny about mixing work life and home life.’”  Things become even more complicated when Louise starts an affair with David, an affair which, of course, she wants to keep a secret from Adele.

It is obvious from the beginning that much is not as it seems.  The relationship between David and Adele is strained; the reason for the tension is not revealed because David and Adele don’t really talk and David refuses to discuss his marriage with Louise.  Gradually, however, the reader glimpses the truth behind the marriage, and as Adele’s past is exposed, it is clear that she is not Louise’s friend.  Adele teaches Louise about lucid dreaming to help with her night terrors and the technique works but has unexpected effects.

Neither of the women is a sympathetic character.  Adele is duplicitous and manipulative so she is unlikeable.  Louise constantly makes illogical choices and behaves in morally reprehensible ways.  Despite having been hurt when her ex-husband cheated on her, she puts another woman, a friend, in the same position to be hurt by a philandering husband?  Her decisions could even potentially put her son in harm’s way, yet she seems incapable of stopping her foolish behaviour.  She knows what she should do but doesn’t.   I wanted to scream the Nike slogan at her!

Adele has a plan, but it is amazing how well her plan falls into place.  Though her plan requires people to behave a certain way and for interactions between people to proceed in a specific way, not once does she suffer any setbacks?  David is the psychiatrist but Adele is the one who understands people so well that she knows exactly how they will behave?    Given the ending, Adele’s astuteness is even less plausible.  And let’s ignore the fact that there is no scientific evidence of astral projection.

Yes, that ending.  Many readers have praised the ending because it is one that no one would ever guess – as if that were a good thing.  I enjoy plot twists but the ending is ludicrous and outlandish.  Too much information is withheld so the author cheats.  One could argue that the title and statements like “We can never see who someone really is underneath the skin” are clues but these are so ambiguous as to be laughable.

At first, I enjoyed the book but as it increasingly required more and more suspension of disbelief, I became impatient with its outrageousness.  If the book had been properly described as containing paranormal elements, I would not have chosen to read it.  So the entire book is a cheat; because descriptions of the book omit reference to a key element, the reader is manipulated as much as Adele manipulates Louise.