I’ve been reading so many twisty books lately. I mean, I know I read a lot of novels of suspense and psychological thrillers so it’s what you expect, but authors are obviously working a lot harder to keep we readers guessing.
I’m usually pretty good with the whodunit stuff, but I’ve floundered a bit lately and Catherine Steadman’s Mr Nobody was very much like that.
This is the second book of Steadman’s I’ve read and her 2018 novel Something in the Water was chosen for Reese Witherspoon’s popular book club.
by Catherine Steadman
Published by Simon & Schuster UK
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
When a man is found on a British beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him, to international medical experts who are baffled by him, to the national press who call him Mr. Nobody, everyone wants answers. Who is this man? And what happened to him?
Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient in a small town deep in the English countryside. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for, and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same town fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then.
But now something—or someone—is calling her back. And the more time she spends with her patient, the more alarmed she becomes that he knows the one thing about her that nobody is supposed to know.
Emma’s unabashedly ambitious so when offered the chance to ‘make her name’ in her field with Mr Nobody (named Matthew by a nurse at the hospital) she leaps at it, despite knowing family secrets might raise their ugly heads. Though she uses her brother as a sounding board, wondering how it will affect him, his family and their mother, she’s a tad blasé about it. (Which by the way I felt was kind of selfish of her.)
There was a bit of inconsistency here for me. Emma knows her history might come out but wants the gig enough to pursue it. However, she does little to avoid being discovered.
Steadman does a good job of keeping readers in the dark about Emma’s / or her family’s past. There are hints it wasn’t something Emma herself did and that she was (also) a victim. It’s almost impossible to predict the actual ‘secret’, though there’s mention of a bonfire and some sensitivity to talking to her about fires so naturally we assume it’s something to do with arson or a fire.
On ‘waking’ on the beach – despite the bleeding knock to his head Matthew knows he’s looking for someone. A woman. And as soon as he meets Emma he greets her by her real name. The name she was known by when she lived in Norfolk over 14 years earlier.
Emma finds herself liking Matthew though not knowing what to make of him. He reminds her of someone, she tells us… but of someone who no longer exists. Added to that, he seems to know things about others. Things he couldn’t know.
If you’re like me you leap to all sorts of conclusions – my biggest fear was that we were going to dip into the supernatural or similar and Matthew was going to be some spirit reincarnated. Or something.
Thankfully we didn’t go there. But we’re kept guessing nonetheless. Matthew seems to have expert fighting skills so the Ministry of Defence make an appearance.
Emma’s cover is blown earlier than she expects but she fights hard to keep working with Matthew. And Steadman provides quite a bit of detail about different types of amnesia and dissociative fugue and what causes both. The latter is rare we learn and Emma’s fairly sure Matthew’s case will make her career.
Emma, Matthew and others we meet are likeable and the story unfolds from the main protagonists’ point of view. Having said that I felt it was almost impossible to piece together the puzzle. Although the scenario – Matthew’s potential link to Emma’s past and who (or what) he might be is intriguing and had a lot of potential – I didn’t like the direction it went in; and the ultimate leap in logic / feasibility was a bit much for me at the end. It’s certainly still worth the read however… and you may have more luck than me at predicting the ending.
Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and available from 1 February 2020.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.