It was really only a matter of time before Sarah Pinborough hit the best sellers list. Her bibliography reveals a writer of extraordinary range and imagination - from rewriting fairy tales as soft erotica to young adult stories of great emotional depth. The books themselves reveal a fine writer and craftswoman, capable of delivering high wire plots and beautifully defined characters.
With Behind Her Eyes, Pinborough has taken her gifts and crafted a novel that delivers all of this straight into the heart of the reading public's current sweet spot: the psychological thriller in which the main protagonists are everyday women (rather than cops or PIs.)
The women in question here are Adele and Louise, who occupy the two sharpest points on a dangerous love triangle. Adele, revealed early to be a complex soul with a troubled past is married to - and totally in love with - psychiatrist David. Louise, a divorcee single mother, takes a job in David's clinic and not very long afterwards become his lover also. Meanwhile the two women meet and strike up a close friendship. And so the intrigue begins.
Louise, who is never comfortable with her deception of her friend, is warm and down to earth. 'An open book', she describes herself as. Adele is a more ethereal character: beautiful, fragile and with a mysterious past that Pinborough gradually reveals as the relationship unfolds. David is complicated. 'Two Davids', Louise says. The controlling husband of Adele and the strong, open professional that Louise herself sees.
The story is told through the narration of the two women, who drive the story forward with their own particular view of events. This is intersersed by occasionally chapters interludes entitled, 'Then' which reveals glimpses into Adele's past.
Behind Her Eyes works only because the dynamic between the two women works. What develops is a compelling game of tennis with the story being hammered back and forth between them with their own particular spin and slice. It quickly became highly addictive, and it's not long before the reader knows there's something very strange and potentially disturbing going on.
It's difficult to say too much more without drifting into spoiler territory. The big question I had before I started was whether it could live up to the Twitter hype cycle surrounding the novel, where it came with its own hastag: #WTFthatending.
Duly warned, I spent most of the novel trying to figure out what that might be, and only in the closing pages did I think I had it figured out, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. The book is worth its billing and it's going to propel the gifted Pinborough into the big time.
Reviews of previous Sarah Pinborough novels
The Death House (2015)