Book Review

The Therapist by Helene Flood tr. by Alison McCullough

At first it’s the lie that hurts.

A voicemail from her husband tells Sara he’s arrived at the holiday cabin. Then a call from his friend confirms he never did.

She tries to carry on as normal, teasing out her clients’ deepest fears, but as the hours stretch out, her own begin to surface. And when the police finally take an interest, they want to know why Sara deleted that voicemail.

To get to the root of Sigurd’s disappearance, Sara must question everything she knows about her relationship.

Could the truth about what happened be inside her head?

The Therapist by Helene Flood is a fantastic psychological thriller that begins with a deceptively simple premise.  Sara’s husband – Sigurd – is supposed to be at a holiday cabin with his friends.  He leaves her a voicemail message telling her he’s arrived, but when she gets a call from his friends later that day wondering where he is, her life is thrown into turmoil.  Is it a nasty prank on their part, or has her husband lied to her?  It’s an intriguing mystery, and one that becomes increasingly complicated as we learn more about Sara, Sigurd, and their lives together. 

Sara is a psychologist, and this gives her character an interesting edge.  I think that Sara’s career choice makes her question Sigurd’s behaviour in a different way to most.  For Sara, it’s not just about the dishonesty, but also what the root cause of his behaviour is.  As the novel progresses, we learn more about their backstory, and soon learn that things haven’t always been as smooth as they could have been between the two of them for a variety of reasons.  Sara isn’t an entirely likeable character, but she is one who knows her own faults and shortcomings.  She comes across as being practical, but also cold and detached.  The lack of emotion displayed – outwardly, at least – does raise questions as to her reliability as a narrator.  

The novel shows the events in the days following Sigurd’s disappearance.  The police begin to investigate although there’s little insight into the investigation as the novel is told from Sara’s perspective.  It’s clear that they aren’t wholly convinced by Sara’s version of events, however, and they are dismissive of her claims that an intruder has entered the house, particularly as nothing is taken, only moved around – the sort of thing that most would put down to a moment of forgetfulness.  I did feel sorry for Sara at this stage.  It’s clearly a difficult time, and I wondered if grief was beginning to take its toll on her, particularly as a few truths about Sigurd are revealed. The refusal of the police to share any information on the investigation also has an impact, and it’s easy to imagine how it would be both frustrating and worrying to be in such a scenario.

The Therapist is an intriguing psychological thriller that had me both sympathising with and questioning the main protagonist.  It’s a cleverly written mystery – the clues are there for the reader to pick up on, and while I did work out some of what was going on, the author still had a few surprises in store for me before the end of the novel.  Recommended for those who enjoy Nordic noir. 

The Therapist is published by MacLehose Press in eBook and audio formats on 6 May, and in hardback on 8 July. Huge thanks to the publisher for sending a copy for review.

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