I enjoy a good crime novel, but I also really enjoy psychological thrillers. The cover copy of Charlotte Williams' debut novel, The House on the Cliff, sounded right up my alley.
"A riveting psychological novel featuring Jessica Mayhew, a therapist who becomes entangled in the long-dormant murder mystery that haunts her patient's family."
I was intrigued by the initial meeting of Jessica and her patient, actor Gwydion Morgan. He has a fear of buttons. (It is a real phobia! Who knew?) However as their sessions continue, the button phobia takes a backseat to a remembered dream from childhood. Gwydion dreams of hiding in a box to escape an loud argument. His father is a well known director and a serial philanderer. Could the dream be a repressed memory? Is there more for Gwydion to remember?
Jessica herself is dealing with issues as well - her husband has had a brief affair and although they are still together for the sake of the children, she has not forgiven him.
Here's my problem - I didn't like Jessica at all. Not as a person, wife or mother and certainly not as a therapist. She crosses way too many lines, all while justifying her actions to herself. Her daughter is involved in a potentially dangerous situation, yet she blithely lets her walk into it anyway. For me, this storyline seemed more intriguing and more 'psychologically thrilling' than the main plot.
Williams has a very clinical style of writing, that perhaps suits a psychotherapist recounting a tale. But, I found it dry and somewhat tedious. Although Williams does give us a twist at the end, I wasn't overly surprised by the whodunit. Sadly, for this reader, The House on the Cliff wasn't quite what I had hoped for.
The House on the Cliff is the first in a planned series featuring Mayhew. Read an excerpt of The House on the Cliff.
"After studying philosophy in college, Charlotte Williams went on to work as an arts journalist, writing for newspapers and magazines, and making documentaries for the BBC. She now works in radio drama, writing original plays and adaptations."