Robert Beveridge's Reviews > The Red Room

The Red Room by Nicci French
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's review
Jan 23, 08

bookshelves: finished, owned-and-gave-away
Read in September, 2002

Nicci French, The Red Room (Mysterious Press, 2001)

I've heard a number of times that The Red Room is just plain not as good as French's previous blockbuster, the much-loved Beneath the Skin. I don't really agree. While The Red Room is marred by something of a weak ending, the novel does its thing just as well as Beneath the Skin did. And the latter was such a cleverly-executed concept that expecting any mystery novel to hold up in comparison is probably a bit unfair.

The plot centers around a psychologist, Kit Carson, who every once in a while consults for the local police force. During one such consultation, a mentally challenged chap named Michael Doll shatters a coffee mug and uses it to scar Kit's face. Once she's back to work, the police bring her in on a murder where they believe Doll to be the perp, to give her a bit of closure. She ends up thinking he's innocent and starts going after the real killer, while the police keep trying to pin it on Doll.

There is much to this, and what's in the novel is good. There could have been more of what's in the novel; the relationship that develops between Kit and Michael is handled in a kind of easy-way-out tone, rather than exploring the places it had the potential to go. The police officers also seem to shift a little too quickly from solicitous to annoyed; the town has the word's first all-manic-depressive police squad (wouldn't be to out of place in an Ian Rankin novel, but here it feels less like quirks and more like shallow characters). But everything moves along, the plot strings are juggled deftly, and everything is tied up in a neat little bow at the end of the game. Worth checking out for French fans, but those who have not yet been introduced should probably go with Beneath the Skin. ***

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