Audiobook Review: Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman
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: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Random House Audio (January 7, 2020)
Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
Narrator: Catherine Steadman
Well, this wasn’t bad, but I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t a disappointment after the hard-hitting psychological suspense and intense thriller that was Something in the Water, Catherine Steadman’s debut. Clearly, she tried to capture the same kind of magic in Mr. Nobody, but I regret to say that it just wasn’t there.
Told mainly from the point-of-view of Dr. Emma Lewis, one of the UK’s leading authorities on memory disorders, the story begins when she receives a phone call from a colleague offering to connect her with a high profile case involving a man found washed up on a beach. Dubbed “Matthew” because he has no recollection of what his real name is or where he came from, the man has been taken to a nearby hospital where he is being closely monitored, while teams of police and healthcare providers work around the clock to determine who he is. Could he be a refugee, with no ties to the country and that’s why no one has come forward to identify him despite his face plastered all over the news? Or might he be a soldier, suffering from PTSD which has affected his ability to remember and communicate? From all reports, Matthew hasn’t uttered a word since being found, but apart from that and the complete memory loss, he appears to be in good health and spirits.
Having dedicated her life to studying retrograde amnesia, Emma is thrilled at the prospect of being able to work with their “Mr. Nobody”, but there is one catch. The hospital where they have taken Matthew is in her hometown, a place she thought she’d left behind forever. For you see, our protagonist hasn’t always been known as Emma Lewis, and only a handful of people know that. During her first meeting with Matthew, however, not only does the amnesic man speak for the first time when he sees her, but he says her name—her true name, the one she had before she had to change it and move away.
Emma knows it shouldn’t be impossible, because she’s pretty sure she’s never seen Matthew before in her life. Yet somehow, he seems to recognize her and is familiar with certain details of her past. But how can that be? What is their connection? These questions and more were what made the first part of this novel so addictive and fascinating. I love a good amnesia story, and credit goes to Steadman for laying down the groundwork and establishing the mystery so effectively. The intrigue only deepened with every interaction between our characters, especially once Emma begins putting Matthew through various neurological scans and tests, revealing the curious nature of his fugue.
Thing is though, I thought I had signed up for a thriller, and I’m afraid in that area, Mr. Nobody kind of fell flat. I think it’s safe to say it works far better as a slow-burn novel of mystery and suspense. The pacing slowed to crawl in places, and overall, the story just didn’t have the energy or momentum I’d been hoping for. The book’s structure was also frustrating, jumping between multiple POVs with frequent switches in narrative modes. It wasn’t very ideal for this story, since for it to work, so much depended on our two main characters keeping certain details from the reader, and after a while this grew very awkward and tiresome.
Then there was the big reveal in the climax and ending. Unfortunately, that whole section felt rushed with explanations and answers that were glossed over. It was sufficient enough, I suppose, but ultimately I was left feeling unsatisfied and a little cheated. I also didn’t think many of the side plots involving supporting characters were resolved or integrated too well, compared to Something in the Water where all the separate pieces fell into place so perfectly in the end. The final chapters of Mr. Nobody, on the other hand, felt rather slapdash and thrown together haphazardly, thus muting the impact and shock value from the so-called final twist.
All told, what began as a promising intro eventually morphed into a pretty weak-sauce thriller that felt more like a medical mystery at times, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. However, I was in the mood for something punchier, and was disappointed when Mr. Nobody failed to deliver. Like I said, it’s not a bad book, but sadly the style of it did not mesh very well with my overall expectations.
Audiobook Comments: Catherine Steadman, known for being on Downton Abbey, is an experienced and accomplished actress so it was no surprise when I saw that she was narrating her own book again. Once more, she delivered a professional and stunning performance, and the novel was definitely made better because she, as the author, knew exactly which tone to take and when to stress certain lines. I think the only change that would have improved the audiobook version of Mr. Nobody is if they had brought in a second reader for Matthew’s sections, which would have lessened the confusion between POV skips, but other than that I really have no complaints about the narration.