Red Room

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9780140281071: Red Room

Kit Quinn is a young woman who inhabits dangerous worlds: crime scenes, interrogation scenes, hospitals for the criminally insane. Horribly wounded in an attack by a suspect, she must return to the site of her worst fears. She is asked by the police to advise them on a simple murder inquiry. A young runaway has been found killed by a canal and the chief suspect is the man who wounded Kit. But Kit refuses to accept appearances and her obsessive search for the truth draws her into an underworld of the missing and the unloved which puts her at terrible risk.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, August 2001: Already a sensation in England, Nicci French (the pseudonym of a London couple who've turned their marriage into a writing partnership as well) is quickly gaining recognition and fans on this side of the Atlantic, too. French's two previous novels published here, Killing Me Softly and Beneath the Skin, are romantic thrillers with hard edges--a little like a marriage of convenience between Sally Beauman and Ian Rankin.

But The Red Room is a change of pace that is reminiscent of Frances Fyfield, only without her stylistic quirks. It also asks a lot of the reader in imagining the deliberately obtuse or arrogant ways in which the police sometimes interfere in the lives of those not on the public payroll.

In this case, the two people whose lives are being most unfairly manipulated hold opposite, even antagonistic, places in society. One is a clinical psychologist, Katherine Quinn; the other, Michael Doll, is the troubled young man who not long ago left her with terrible facial disfigurement, having suddenly attacked her while undergoing an evaluation in his jail cell. Somehow, out of curiosity, misplaced duty, and a desire to try to "reduce him to his human size," Kit Quinn allows a police detective to talk her into seeing Michael once again. This time her nemesis--about whom she has recurring nightmares of a blood-spattered red room--stands accused of murder. The trouble is, after coming face to face with him, Dr. Quinn isn't at all convinced he's guilty.

Nicci French has better success with the setup of this suspenseful, twisty situation than she does with its resolution. But The Red Room provides superior entertainment, with a complex and all-too-human heroine at the center of its drama. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

Nicci French is a journalist and lives in London. The Red Room is her fourth novel.

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