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The Other Side of the Door: A Novel of Suspense by Nicci French
Review by Lynne LeGrow
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312375409
Date: 11 May 2010 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

They say "Everybody lies". We choose to think that our dearest friends would not lie to us, but do we ever really know another person? This novel tests the boundaries of friendship. Would you place yourself in jeopardy to help a friend? Just how much would you sacrifice for friendship? The protagonist in this novel, Bonnie Graham is asked these questions and also asks them herself. With the dead body of her lover on the floor, she calls a friend to help her... and so begins "The other side of the door" by Nicci French.

I have read several novels by the British husband and wife writing team that goes by the nom de plume of Nicci French. (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French). They have mastered the art of seamless writing so that the reader doesn't know where one writer stops and the other begins. They have a keen insight into human behavior and what makes people act the way they do when under stress. They relay this insight to the reader in such a way that the reader empathizes with the plight of the character.

Our protagonist Bonnie Graham is a music teacher and a musician who has recently broken up with her live-in boyfriend. She has just bought a new flat and plans to spend the summer remodeling it. Then an acquaintance hires her to form a band to play at her wedding. When she meets a musician and asks him to play in this band, her life is irrevocably changed.

Hayden Booth is a talented musician who seems to live up to the reputation garnered by his ilk. He does not conform to what people expect, he follows no timetables, he is a volatile free spirit. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, Bonnie falls for him and has an affair.

Hayden is lying dead on the floor.... Did Bonnie murder her lover? When she calls her friend Sonia for assistance, we presume her guilt. Why else would someone want to erase all traces of her presence at the scene? Why else would someone want to dispose of the body?

Sonia rises to the request and helps Bonnie. Together they clean the flat and take the body to a reservoir. But guilt eats at Bonnie. She finds her life beginning to unravel. When she and her friends are questioned by the police, she feels that the burden of what she knows is too great to bear. Although she is under duress, she never falters in her loyalty, and never succumbs to betrayal. Can she say the same for her friends?

The novel was written in a before and after flashback format which worked well in this instance. Before Hayden's death and after. I think that for me to truly enjoy a novel, I have to like the protagonist. Throughout this book, Bonnie Graham's bland personality was not particularly likable. It is not until about two-thirds through the text that we begin to feel that we are finally getting to know her. When we begin to understand what the authors have done, we become immersed in the writing and then and only then does the novel come up to par with the author's other works. With a marvelous little hook at the end, they prove that they are masters of psychological suspense and anyone who enjoys that type of novel will likely enjoy this one.

By the close of the novel you will find yourself wondering how far you would go to protect the ones you care about. A book that stimulates introspection is a very good thing!

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