Audiobook Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (January 31, 2017)
Length: 11 hrs and 28 mins
Narrators: Anna Bentinck, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland, Huw Parmenter
Sarah Pinborough is fast becoming a must-read author for me. Her books, like the Dr. Thomas Bond duology and The Language of Dying are among some of my favorites, demonstrating her incredible writing talent and versatility. Needless to say, my anticipation for her new mystery suspense novel Behind Her Eyes was tremendous, especially with the #WTFThatEnding social media campaign working in overdrive throughout the months leading up to release.
The story opens with an introduction to Louise, a divorced single mom who works as a doctor’s assistant. Having watched her ex-husband move on with a new girlfriend and a baby on the way, she’s understandably feeling a bit dejected and lonely, which is why her spirits are lifted when she meets a handsome man at a bar one night and things end with a clandestine kiss between them. However, that rush quickly fades when she arrives back at work on Monday only to find that the firm’s new psychiatrist is none other than the man from the bar. His name is David Martin, her new boss. And he is also very much married.
The two of them decide to put the night behind them and promise to never speak of it again. But then by chance, Louise runs into Adele Martin, David’s chic, sophisticated and beautiful wife. Try as she might to stay away, Louise can’t help but be drawn to the other woman. Adele may seem perfect on the surface, but Louise senses a timid and broken soul underneath. The two of them strike up a close friendship, keeping their interaction a secret from David, who seems to make Adele nervous and scared. The secrecy is just as well for Louise, since despite their earlier promise to each other to forget the kiss, she and David have become involved in a passionate affair. Louise isn’t proud of what she’s doing, but she also can’t deny that she’s falling for David. And yet, she also cares very much for Adele, a woman who appears to be in desperate need for someone to listen to her and be her friend. Something awful is going on in the Martins’ marriage, and even though Louise is smitten, she also has concerns about David’s angry, controlling streak and wants to know why Adele is so afraid of her husband.
Before one gets drawn into the sense that this is nothing but your usual mystery thriller about a love triangle from hell, I have to warn you that trusting anybody in this book would be a huge mistake. There’s nothing ordinary about this novel, and I mean that on so many levels. Sarah Pinborough is not only an amazing storyteller, she’s also a master of pulling the strings and keeping you guessing. Like a lot of her books, there’s always an element of something beyond the realm of the mundane, and that is all I’ll say to hint at the underlying riddle at the heart of this story.
Here’s also where I’ll be getting a little vague in my review, since I doubt there’s any possible way to discuss plot details without spoiling, so I’m limiting my descriptions to emotions. First, I was intrigued. Most of the story is told through Louise’s perspective, and the author has created a very well-rounded character in her. It’s true that I hated her for her duplicity in carrying on with a married man while being friends with his wife, but at the same time there’s an authenticity to her that made it easier to understand why she couldn’t extract herself from that situation. I felt something similar for Adele, the other major point-of-view character. Her sections were both strange and disturbing. Clearly she’s a damaged woman, and flashbacks to the past reveal tragedy and pain. The scenes she shares with her husband also indicate something very wrong in their marriage. The truth is a mystery, with subtle clues doled out along the way, adding to the growing feelings of unease. These days it might seem like a cop-out to compare any kind of dramatic suspense-thriller novel to Gone Girl, but no joke, I got those same vibes with this one. Tensions reach a peak as we close in on the finale, where Pinborough drops the major bombshell.
That brings us to the ending, where the author clearly delivers on the marketing campaign’s promise of WTFuckery. Still, there’s a part of me that wishes the publisher hadn’t hyped the hashtag all over social media, not only because it raises readers’ expectations but also because everyone knows that surprises always work best when you don’t know they’re coming. Granted it was still a shocking ending, but I think it would have been even better if I hadn’t known ahead of time to prepare for something big. That said, if it drives people to be curious and pick up this amazing book, I can’t complain; just know that this story so much bigger than #WTFThatEnding because it is the twisted, complex and clever build-up which makes the conclusion such a powerful whack on the head.
If you’re fan of psychological thrillers, you need to do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Behind Her Eyes because I really can’t recommend enough. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Audiobook Comments: I was also fortunate to receive an audiobook copy of Behind Her Eyes to review, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is read by multiple narrators (Anna Bentinck, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland, Huw Parmenterto) to illustrate separate character storylines, though on several occasions a couple of their voices sounded too similar for me to distinguish right away whose perspective we’re following. There were also a few confusing chapter transitions and moments where I was confused whether we were in the present “Now” storyline or flashing back to the “Then” timeline, so I really had to pay careful attention. These nitpicks aside though, this audiobook was a great listen and I was fully immersed in the experience.
Click below to hear an audio excerpt of BEHIND HER EYES, narrated by Anna Bentinck, Josie Dunn, Bea Holland, Huw Parmenter. With thanks to Macmillan Audio.