Secret Smile, by Nicci French

Miranda has a short fling with Brendan, before finishing the relationship because she doesn't think there's anything special there. She thinks no more of it, until Brendan turns up in her life again, as her sister's boyfriend. And he's told her sister that it was he that broke up with Miranda. So when Miranda attempts to express her concerns for her sister, her behaviour is seen by the rest of the family as evidence of her upset at having been dumped. Then Brendan starts upping the ante...

Unlike when I read Killing Me Softly, I knew what to expect (in genre terms) when reading this book. So for that reason the book wasn't as interesting. But I think it was in any case a weaker story: in fact in some ways it seemed a re-hash of KMS: both have women who are initially attracted to men who turn out to have some kind of sinister psychopathic trait. The author interview at the end of this book did draw this parallel, so I assume that not all the Nicci French books riff on this theme.

What was quite interesting was the way that Miranda's behaviour became more and more obsessive as the book progressed: the more that people disbelieve what she says about Brendan, the more she feels that the responsibility falls on her alone to expose him, and the harder she works to dig into his background and uncover clues about his past. This meant that you have to consider whether Miranda is entirely a reliable narrator: perhaps, it's she who has the psychological problem. And in fact, there is a section towards the end of the book which isn't entirely reliable.

But overall the book didn't exploit the potential that I thought the plot offered, and took the easy way out rather than exploring the possibilities that had been raised. Add to that the implausibility of certain plot twists, and it was a bit of a disappointment. Easy to read, and not un-enjoyable, but although I'll give NF another go, I wouldn't bother re-reading this one.

Completed : 15-Nov-2008

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