Title: Mr. Nobody
Author: Catherine Steadman
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Publication date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
Summary: With just a name written on his hand, The Man regains consciousness on a British beach with no memory of who he was or is. In London, neuropsychiatrist Emma Lewis is hoping that his case will make her career. But the patient brings her back to her childhood home, and a horrific past that led to her and her family relocating and changing their names. As she fights to hide her identity and he struggles to regain his, their presents collide.
My thoughts on this book are completely scattered. I’m not sure what, exactly, I think of it. I loved it. I hated it. I was annoyed by it. I was disappointed by it. It got my heart pounding. I never knew I could be so mixed up by a book!
So let’s break it down.
I Loved and Hated It (for personal reasons)
This book is right up my professional alley. Mostly. I went to school to be a neuropsychologist, but wasn’t able to finish my degree, so this book really spoke to my brain. Fugue, malingering, brain scans, memory exercises, therapy. I loved all of it. Sometimes it did seem to read a bit like a textbook, especially when something more technical was being explained. As a reader, it was a little disjointed, but, as someone who studied a related field, it felt like home. I found myself identifying with Emma because she was doing exactly what I had planned to do. At the same time, I hated it because I was jealous of her for doing what is now out of my reach. I didn’t know it was possible to be so jealous of a character.
I Was Annoyed By It
What annoyed me the most was that very little of The Man’s side of the story was told. I get that the book was about the neuropsychiatrist trying to diagnose and treat him, and that, by telling more of his story, it might have revealed too much too soon. But, honestly, I wish the reader had been allowed into his mad mind a little more. It would have been fascinating to read more about his experience of the world with absolutely no memory of who he was. It might have also been a nice way of showcasing how memory functions.
The other thing that annoyed me was how slow the story seemed to be moving. I think it was due in part to the repetitive parts of Emma’s personal story. We’re told over and over about Emma’s past, and only a tiny bit more is revealed each time. We get fragments over the course of the novel, alongside a great deal of her fear of people finding out about her family’s history in the area. It was slow and repetitive, and sometimes I felt like the overall story became bogged down by it.
Overall, it’s a fairly simple story of a neuropsychiatrist attempting to diagnose a patient, help him regain his memories, and find out how the two of them might be connected. But it’s slow going.
I Was Disappointed By It
The reveal of how The Man and Emma were connected didn’t feel as satisfying as I had hoped, or even as it should have. The entire book built their connection up to be something incredible. While it was quite interesting, and more than a bit unnerving, I felt it was a bit tenuous. The mystery of how they were connected could have been solved rather quickly had Emma done more research. So, it felt weak to me.
I was also a little disappointed by Emma’s past. The beginning of the book built it up to be something horrific. It did turn out to be terrible, but not quite as horrific as I thought it might be. It was almost as though the author had gone in with one, dark idea and then took a turn and changed it halfway through. It was still surprising, but wasn’t as dark as I had hoped it would be.
It Got My Heart Pounding
Truly, the last quarter was thrilling. As a thriller, this book heavily disappointed me. Until the end. It was a real page turner for me during those last chapters. I can usually see how the character is going to be able to get out of trouble, but I really couldn’t until she did manage to get herself out. I couldn’t stop reading because I needed to know how the story was going to end. This is where all the action was, all the excitement.
Personally, I found the process of diagnosing and treating to be fascinating as it aligned with my own background, but it was more mentally satisfying. The last quarter of it was definitely for the benefit of my heart. I was glued to the pages.
I’m mixed up about this book. I did enjoy reading most of it, but some parts were just completely unsatisfactory. Still, the characters were intriguing and the story was interesting. I loved all the neuro, which I think was given in a very understandable way, so I might be a little more biased than I’d like to be. Overall, this is more mystery than thriller, but had an interesting premise.
How many cups of tea will you need?
A tough choice, but my bias is going to say 4 cups of tea
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Ballantine, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.