Waiting for Wednesday: A Frieda Klein Mystery
Let me say at the outset that I will have some trouble articulating how impressive Nicci French becomes with each succeeding novel. “Nicci French,” the collective title of operation for the husband and wife author team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, demonstrated a canny talent from her literary start with a series of stand-alone works, but has taken things to an entirely new level with her Frieda Klein series, of which the newly published WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY is the third.
Make no mistake: Klein is deeply disturbed, in no small part because of the physical and emotional trauma she has experienced over the course of the series. In fact, no one in her universe is quite right, from her friends --- particularly the bordering-on-irritating Josef --- to her enemies, both professional and personal. Dr. Hal Bradshaw could be the worst of them, perhaps in part because he and Klein are ostensibly on the same side, both being psychotherapists who are often brought in by law enforcement to consult in particularly difficult or heinous crimes. Bradshaw’s existence seems consumed by his desire to bring Klein down, and, as demonstrated early on, he seemingly will go to any means to do so.
"French’s unflinching portrait of Klein is painful at times but very, very real, providing an interesting counterbalance to the Lennox murder mystery at the heart of the novel while delving into the secret lives that many keep hidden and occasionally come back to haunt, or worse."
However, the primary incident that drives the book is the murder of a well-regarded and much beloved woman named Ruth Lennox. It appears that the murder is a tragic by-product of a burglary gone wrong, and that Lennox, a home health visitor with a husband and three children, returned home at the wrong time. The case seems to be solved when the hapless burglar is identified, but it quickly becomes evident that there is much more going on than was immediately evident. The investigation moves in another direction, involving another family and increasing the number of suspects, many of whom seem bent on confessing.
Klein, who is at first brought into and then officially shut out of the investigation, begins doing some compulsive digging on her own, even though her personal life is disrupted in practically every way possible. Bradshaw pulls off some interesting subterfuge against Klein, under the guise maintaining professional standards. While it isn’t entirely successful, it does send Klein off onto a rather tenuous tangent that may or may not have some merit.
While trying to trace the origin of an enigmatic clue, Klein crosses paths with Jim Fearby, an obsessed crusading journalist who is convinced that a series of apparently random disappearances are malevolently connected. The murder of Lennox is excellent fodder for the brilliant police procedural that comprises the book, and as a result, even if one is able to guess the identity of the murderer early on, it is still a bit of a surprise. French uses Klein and Fearby’s unofficial investigation as a way to bring the book to an unsettling climax and to let the well-meaning but often hapless Josef have his moment in the sun.
French’s unflinching portrait of Klein is painful at times but very, very real, providing an interesting counterbalance to the Lennox murder mystery at the heart of the novel while delving into the secret lives that many keep hidden and occasionally come back to haunt, or worse. It makes WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY a complex, unforgettable work that deserves to be read and reread.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 10, 2014