A publishing friend of mine (who knows of my penchant for crime fiction) suggested I’d like debut novel, White Noise by Mercedes Mercier. And they certainly weren’t wrong. I had the opportunity to read an early copy back in February, but decided to wait for the final before posting my review. Of course an unexpected trip away meant I wasn’t here when the final copy arrived, but now I’m back home I’ve been able to re-read Mercier’s debut novel and again very much enjoyed meeting prison psychologist Lauren.
by Mercedes Mercier
Published by HarperCollins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
When prison psychologist Laura Fleming is assigned charismatic inmate Justin Jones, alarm bells ring.
Working with some of the state's most damaged criminals, she knows Jones is too dangerous to release on parole, but he's got everyone fooled . . . She needs proof.
Laura knows all about damage. Her own painful mistakes have destroyed her marriage and she's been refused access to her daughter. Step by agonising step, she's rebuilding her life and her relationships, but it's a hard road. What does she have to do to prove she can be trusted?
But Laura's not taking any chances with Jones. As she races to find evidence before his parole hearing, she digs deep into Justin's life, and is shocked by what she finds.
Then Laura falls victim to a series of increasingly personal attacks, and secrets from her past threaten to unhinge everything she holds dear - her job, her family . . . even her sanity.
When we meet Lauren she’s just been assigned some new patients after their previous psychologist went on maternity leave. Justin Jones is supremely confident Lauren will agree with his former psychologist that he’s ready for release. But Lauren’s spidey senses tingle in his presence. His prison record is too good to be true. More like someone ‘acting’ in the way they think they need to rather than being their true selves. And in her sessions there are glimpses of anger before Jones brings them under control. She’s certain he’s a psychopath and suspects he has Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
Life is complicated for Lauren (however). Before she became a psychologist she was a paramedic until a fateful call-out a decade earlier resulted in her partner’s death and her own severe injuries. An addiction to painkillers followed and her husband left taking sole custody of her child. Lauren got her life back together though, went to University and has been clean for eight years when we meet her. Her ‘ex’ however, continues to use her past against her.
I found myself gobsmacked that Lauren couldn’t see how her (ex) husband manipulated and controlled her; her access to her daughter and her own finances. I appreciated however that Mercier refrains from making him out to be ‘bad’ in a black/white way. He’s exceedingly quick to judge Lauren and frightfully distrustful of her. It means we readers ask ourselves if there’s something malicious behind his actions, or if he actually has his daughter’s best interests at heart.
When things start happening in Lauren’s private life she suspects that Jones has someone on the outside offering warnings. And he (and they) seem to know about her past addiction, making Lauren question the loyalty of the very few people she’s told. Her suspicions even border on paranoia as she reinvestigates Jones’s original crime to better understand ‘who’ he is. Or was. And of course she unearths secrets that have been buried for some time.
Mercier works in corrective services so obviously knows what she’s talking about as she gives us some insight into prison life. For the staff – guards, warden and psychologists – as much as the prisoners themselves. It’s not a point of view we’re often offered, so interesting to understand more about the hierarchy of those on the ‘right’ side of the bars.
This is a great debut. Mercier also introduces us to a police officer who assists Lauren and I wonder if we’ll meet both again. I certainly hope so.
White Noise by Mercedes Mercier was published by Harper Collins in early June 2022.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.