Nicci French's new creation: Frieda Klein just doesn't cut it...
Blue Monday signals the beginning of a new heroine in the thriller genre, created by the dastardly duo, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Frieda Klein is an outsider. Her heart hermetically sealed behind a thick wall of steel, she is almost entirely emotionally impenetrable; her only flaw is the occasional professional lapse and letting a patient get to her.
Her former mentor, Reuben, is falling apart and consequently, Frieda finds herself with a new patient – Alan – a man who appears lost in himself. He dreams of a child, a son that he doesn’t have and never will. Perhaps it is his intensity and not just the circumstantial fact that he described perfectly a child that was later abducted that festers in Frieda’s mind and makes her break out of character to impose her suspicions on the detective in charge of the missing person’s case. Or maybe she really is a caring, responsible – if unorthodox and downright unprofessional – human being.
On the periphery are the threads of a previous missing person’s case, another incident of child abduction, one that is somehow linked despite the twenty-odd years’ gap between them; and a slightly mystifying love affair between Frieda and ‘Sandy’. I say mystifying due to the contradictory nature of the tryst – a few weeks long, both surprised at the intensity of their feelings, Frieda remaining extraordinarily cold emotionally and the abrupt end and immediate severing of any and all contact. Clearly the psychotherapist has deep-seated emotional issues that prevent her from maintaining critical relationships in the face of adversity. And somehow in amongst the beguiling Ukrainian handy-man, Reuben’s meltdown and subsequent gradual rehabilitation, Frieda’s doomed love interest and the flummoxing italic text denoting an unidentified individual’s thought process for abducting a child; the abductee and his experience, the workings of the abductor – they get lost. Dwindled down into a few snapshots of a child dehumanised and renamed.
Blue Monday may well be structured adequately with brief nods to police procedure, psychotherapy and mental illness as an abstract; but Frieda Klein is far from credible. She may well be an emotional wreck – privately – but her capacity to treat patients without bias, judgment or exaggeration is to far a stretch. Perhaps she could be forgiven all her flaws, if it were not for the fatal oversight that should have been well within her grasp and yet apparently never surfaced in her consciousness: when there are twins and one is evil. If one shows up dead, you can bet it’s the poor, innocent mug twin and not the perpetrator. And for that reason, I just don’t buy Frieda Klein as a character. I’m out.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012