Secret Smile – Nicci French

You have an affair. You finish it. You think it’s over. You’re dead wrong . . .

‘Too few novelists can combine this level of page-turning suspense with character care and pin-sharp prose’ ERIN KELLY

Miranda’s sister, Kerri, has a new boyfriend. He’s a raven-haired, handsome charmer who seems to dote on Kerri. But Brendan isn’t the man he says he is. Miranda should know, because she broke off her own affair with him just a few weeks ago when she found him reading her diary.

Now Brendan claims that it was he who ended their short-lived relationship—and everyone believes him. When he and Kerri announce their engagement, Miranda’s parents are thrilled for their shyer, less confident daughter. Then Kerri and Brendan beg Miranda to let them live in her apartment until their new home is ready. Against her better judgment, Miranda agrees.

Like a virus, Brendan starts spreading destruction throughout her life. He invades her privacy and disrupts her relationships with her family and friends. And then the real nightmare begins.…

Like the obscenities he whispers into her ear, his onslaughts are as undetectable as they are devastating. Those closest to her begin to doubt her mental stability and accuse her of the very thing she believes drives Brendan: obsession. When Miranda decides to take off the gloves, fight back, and discover what is behind her enemy’s bemused, secret smile, the consequences will be terrifying.

Book Information: Print Length: 332 pages. Publication Date 6 March 2008. Publisher: Penguin. Audible Narrator: Julie Maisey. Listening Length: 8 hours 57 minutes.

Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are twenty bestselling novels by Nicci French, published in thirty-one languages. Blue Monday was the first thrilling story in the Frieda Klein series, which concludes with Day of the Dead.

My Review:

I am slowing going through Nicci French’s back catalogue of standalone psychological thrillers on Audible.

This is one of the most genuinely creepy and disturbing books I’ve listened to. Miranda is a young woman living in London as a builder/decorator. When she meets Brendan through some mutual friends they embark on a short lived romance which she ends immediately after he starts to show some extremely creepy behaviour (I’m not going to spoil it for you, but my goodness Brendan is a very disturbed and chilling individual).

Fast forward a couple of weeks and Miranda’s older sister Kerri wants to introduce her new boyfriend who she has fallen head over heels with and guess who it is? Not only has Brendan weasled his way into Kerri’s heart, he’s now firmly ensconsed with her parents and has told them HE broke up with Miranda and SHE’S still in love with him.

Her parents believe Miranda is jealous, her sister starts distancing herself and her younger brother becomes more withdrawn and depressed throughout the story and all the while Brendan is the perfect boyfriend/future son-in-law. No-one believes Miranda’s side of the story and when tragedy occurs she is determined to find out who Brendan really is and save her family from more heartache.

It’s always amusing to read a book written only 13 years ago and see how far technology has come as younger readers/listeners won’t necessarily understand that SatNav/Facebook/Smartphones were in their infancy then so Miranda’s attempts to clear her name, unveil Brendan’s true colours and protect her family took slightly longer than it would nowadays.

This is a brilliantly creepy tale of gas-lighting, stalking and obsession. Every time I put my headphones on to listen to another chapter, I was instantly filled with dread and couldn’t see how Miranda could make her family see what Brendan was doing. Honestly this guy completely unnerved me, he was a genuine psychopath and brilliant liar, convincing everyone around him that he was the victim and Miranda was an unhinged jealous ex.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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