The Unheard by Nicci French
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|The Unheard by Nicci French|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Another cracker frokm Nicci French. Tess knows that her daughter has seen or heard something to do with a crime being committed, but who will believe either of them? Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464/9h50m||Date: September 2021|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
Tess, a teacher and Jason, a headmaster, have split up: she and Poppy have moved out of the family home and Jason is now married to Emily. The separation was amicable - they had just drifted apart. They co-parent three-year-old Poppy who has her bedroom in what was the family home and another in the flat she shares with her mother. It seemed to be working well until the day that Poppy came home with a menacing drawing of a woman falling from a tall building and she started swearing, using words she was unlikely to have heard in either home. Her behaviour deteriorated and there were problems at nursery school. Tess turns to a therapist for help, then her doctor and finally the police but no one will take what she has to say seriously.
Tess's new boyfriend, Aidan Otley, is supportive but even he seems to have his doubts, so Tess is on her own and she is not going to let go until she has worked out what has so upset Poppy. Time and time again she meets up with comments about it only being a child's drawing and children have vivid imaginations - their behaviour changes, sometimes unpredictably - has she been listening to a fairy story that has upset her? What about Rapunzel?
I read (and listened to - but more of that later) The Unheard with a nerve-fraying sense of unease. Tess is obviously upset by Poppy's behaviour and deeply worried about what she's convinced that Poppy has seen. You can see how Tess is annoying the police: she wants them to investigate, but investigate what? This is an astutely observed picture of a child under stress and of an adult's spiralling descent into paranoia.
There are quite a few men in Poppy's life - isn't it likely that whoever pushed a woman off a building was a man? There's Bernie, the upstairs neighbour, who is trying just that bit too hard to be friendly and who has little sense of personal space. Laurie looks after Poppy, along with his son Jake, after school: could one of his stories have caused the problem? As Tess looks into Jason's life, she makes some unwelcome discoveries that make her wonder just how amicable their separation really was. Even Aidan, quiet, unassuming, caring Aidan, isn't completely above suspicion. As Tess investigates, more and more connections emerge - until it dawns on Tess that she's putting herself and Poppy in danger.
The characterisation is excellent and the plotting is superb. I really didn't see the ending coming: I had someone else chalked in as the villain of the piece but all the clues were there. I was reluctant to put the book down until I found out what happened: I was so involved in the story that I had a personal sense of responsibility. A cracker of a story.
As well as reading the book, I listened to an audiobook (which I bought myself) narrated by Olivia Vinall. Her female voices were stronger than the male, but I'm being very picky in saying that as I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the narration. The pacing was good and I never felt that Vinall was intruding between me and the story. This is the first of her narrations for me - but I'll be happy to hear more.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
For more from Nicci French, we can recommend House of Correction.
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