During my childhood, my mum worked for a while in a geriatric psychiatric ward. The hospital had been an asylum and a workhouse before that. A couple of the residents had been there their whole adult lives, having been put away for being unmarried mothers and therefore ‘morally deficient’, before the second world war and never leaving. A few of the male residents came with a warning to not be alone with them, nor to have them between yourself and the door. The residents ran the whole gamut of problems from sexual deviancy to pica. I was always fascinated by the tales she told and a little scared too.
Literature has always been able to mine a treasure trove of stories and characters in relation to mental illness. From Wilkie Collins and The Woman In white, a novel I read for my English literature O level, to the iconic, One flew Over the Cuckoos nest and Shutter Island, it seems the asylum and treatment of mental illness sufferers has ignited our greatest fascination and touched our darkest fears.
The hit of 2020 so far has been The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides, the story of Alicia Berenson who hasn’t spoken since the murder of her husband and Theo Faber, the psychologist who has a particular interest in finding out what she remembers . I read it at the start of Lockdown. I’ve also recently read a non fiction account of mental health treatment by Kerry Daynes (reviewed on here in February), a real life Forensic psychologist, which looked at memorable cases from her career.
I was delighted then to be able to get the opportunity to read this month’s second book review, which is Cracked by Louise McCreesh and published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in August.
The cover suggests that it is perfect for fans of The Silent Patient. Whilst there is a similarity in the setting within a psychiatric unit, this is much more a classic detective thriller.
Jenny Nilson hasn’t seen Dr Philip Walton since she left Hillside Psychiatric unit, eight years previously. She’s kept her time there a secret, even from her police detective husband. When Dr Walton is murdered, she becomes a suspect. Unknown to the police, Dr Walton was keeping a dreadful secret for Jenny and his was not the first death. Can Jenny contact old friends and enemies from the unit and clear her name before the secret is unearthed and her new life is destroyed?
I felt this was a classic detective story in style, as there a limited cast of characters, all with motives. As the modern story of Jenny’s investigation proceeds it is interspersed with the slow reveal of the back story. There are various twists and turns and you are kept guessing as to who the killer is and why they did it. I did feel that McCreesh used a predictable cast of mental health conditions. It seemed unlikely they’d all be mixing together. They weren’t even of the same age. The stock characters didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story however.
Again, if I was picky, I would doubt that Jenny could have hidden her issues, continued with her medication and any appointments, for the whole of her relationship with James without him detecting something. However, their marriage was a useful device for Jenny to get inside information and move the story forward.
This is English author and Journalist, Louise McCreesh’s (@loumccreesh),first book. When not writing, she is a freelance journalist in London. She studied creative writing on the Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course and as a result received a scholarship from them to continue her work on her debut novel.
Overall, I felt this was a little cliched but nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. So get on down to your local bookshop and buy it or download a copy.
Reviewed by Georgina Murphy
This review is part of a blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.