HarperCollins | 2017 | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
Single mother Louise is ready for some fun, some romance, and one evening she thinks she may have found it when a dalliance in a bar with a charming married stranger promises excitement with just a dash of risk. But Louise, a PA in a firm of psychiatrists, is to receive a shock when her new boss David walks through the office door – he is her handsome stranger. Louise dives into the toilets to avoid an embarrassing encounter with David and his beautiful blonde wife Adele who is on a tour of the building. Adele is a stranger in town. She and David have only just moved there. And when Adele quite literally bumps into Louise, her husband’s new PA, in the street, it seems a natural thing that the two women should chat, have a coffee, and begin a friendship.
And there we have it – the triangle of characters that powers this extraordinarily clever and compelling thriller. I’m not going to say another word about the plot. You need to watch it unfold through the shifting perspectives of Louise and Adele. Events take place within a small world, few characters are involved, the walls closing in as the tension and uncertainty and menace increase.
Sarah Pinborough is such an exciting author, adept at mixing genres, fooling our expectations and wringing our emotions. This can be seen so well in the superb The Death House and 13 Minutes. In Behind Her Eyes, the author yet again catches her reader by surprise.
A certain amount of excitement has built up over the ending of Behind Her Eyes, encouraged by the publisher’s promotion of #WTFthatending. This is always a risky strategy because what if the ending disappoints after our expectations have been teased? But we’re in safe hands here and Sarah Pinborough has delivered a fascinating unexpected conclusion to her novel although I would argue that the book is at its very best during the first half, while we still have little idea in which direction the story may head.
Behind Her Eyes is steeped in menace from the beginning but as the novel progresses it becomes increasingly dark and disturbing, even troubling. I can’t stop thinking about one bit in particular. It haunts me. Sarah Pinborough’s books do that. She is wonderful at creating and sustaining a mood, stretching our expectations about what is and what isn’t possible to their limit. The result is a thoroughly immersive read, one that entertains as well as shocks, and demonstrates how rich a genre can be, even one as well used as domestic noir or the psychological thriller, when it is taken to its limit and beyond and played with by an author as talented as Sarah Pinborough.