Up until yesterday, I have always associated the term “Blue Monday” with the song popularized by Fats Domino. Given that that particular tune was released when I was in kindergarten, which was, uh, a few years ago, you can understand that it would take something of great magnitude to shake that association loose. That event has occurred. It is the publication of the novel BLUE MONDAY by Nicci French.
"BLUE MONDAY is one of those books that should go flying off the shelves.... This is a memorable, riveting work that you will want to read slowly."
Nicci French --- a pseudonym for a husband and wife novelist team --- has been writing strong psychological mysteries for approximately 15 years, with each and all of their novels having been memorable to varying degrees for one reason of another. BLUE MONDAY, which has been touted as the first in the Frieda Klein series (more on that in a moment) stands head and shoulders above their previous work. It is a haunting, frightening piece from beginning to end.
Frieda Klein is a London psychotherapist who is a model for the proposition that the badly damaged among us are drawn to the helping professions. Klein, an insomniac given to late-night wanderings through the more isolated parts of London, is nonetheless extremely good at what she does. From her superior at work to her niece and sister-in-law, Klein is surrounded by people who are (there is no getting around this) mad as hatters. And while she keeps to herself, she is not lacking in empathy; she genuinely cares about her patients and actually listens to them. So it is that she is drawn into a nationwide manhunt when five-year-old Matthew Faraday is abducted off the street. Matthew’s picture is impossible to avoid, being splashed across the front page of every British newspaper.
What strikes Klein is the fact that a patient of hers --- an obsessive-compulsive named Alan Dekker --- has been having dreams that pre-date Matthew’s abduction, in which Alan hungers for a child, who, as described by him, is the exact image of Matthew. Torn between responsibility to her patient and a duty to provide information to the police, Klein finds herself in the middle of the police investigation, often as much at odds with the chief inspector in charge as she is in compliance with him. It turns out that Matthew’s kidnapping is somewhat similar to an unsolved abduction of a young girl that occurred some two decades previously, and Klein and the police are convinced to varying degrees that the two crimes may be related, though they cannot begin to imagine how or why.
Neither Klein nor the authorities have any idea of the magnitude of the monster they are facing, and as the investigation slowly draws them closer to the perpetrator, they still remain unable to find Matthew, if in fact the boy is still alive at all. By the end of the novel, changes have been wrought in ways that the major players cannot expect or anticipate.
BLUE MONDAY is one of those books that should go flying off the shelves. The opening paragraphs are quietly horrifying, while the ending… Let me put it this way: I guessed the ending and felt nonetheless like I had been hit with a pole ax, precisely because I was right. This is a memorable, riveting work that you will want to read slowly.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 8, 2012