Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough, Helene Flood’s debut adult novel follows Sara, a Norwegian therapist, in the aftermath of her husband’s disappearance. Initially, Sigurd lies about his whereabouts in a voicemail left for Sara. Soon she uncovers a web of deceit that ultimately puts her in harm’s way. Originally published in 2019, English-speaking readers finally have the opportunity to embark on a nail-biting descent into Nordic suspense.
Flood has an excellent grasp on narrative structure, creating a taut and page-turning plot that feels deeply unsettling at times. Some of Sara’s experiences within her home after the death of Sigurd verge on Invisible Man-esque psychological torment, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The author’s knowledge of psychology is evident throughout this book, particularly in the characterisation of Sara’s patients and the issues discussed during their appointments. Flood introduces the reader to the complexities of therapy and those who seek it, and these characters fit well into the thriller trope as the plot progresses.
As with many debut thrillers, the plot lacks some of the small nuances of mystery that more seasoned authors tend to thread into their stories. But, the main points of plot were executed well and the flow between major plot points was great, however the small details felt brushed over and needed more attention to detail. Although the book lacked the subtleties of other thrillers, the pace was excellent and propelled the story forward without waning in terms of action.
While definitely ‘unputdownable’ — I found myself sneaking in pages whenever I had the time — The Therapist relies on telling rather than showing for the final plot twist and conclusion. The explanation of what happened to Sigurd is simply told to the reader through a police officer describing the events, almost like a police statement. I would have preferred to see this play out as an action sequence, as the moment in which the murderer is revealed is a major twist in the book. The clues peppered throughout the last half built the tension perfectly, and I had a sense of satisfaction when the murderer was identified.
Flood’s talent for characterisation shines with the secondary characters, however I found it to fall short with Sara. Her cluelessness regarding the situation unfolding around her is somewhat unbelievable at times, whilst she also felt like the least developed character out of the cast. That being said, the vignettes of Sara and Sigurd’s past between some chapters offered a great deal of insight into their marriage and character development.
Overall, this thriller is ideal for someone wanting to curl up on a rainy day and speed through a mystery. It is tense, compelling and atmospheric, and provides interesting insight into psychology. I look forward to seeing more of Helene Flood’s work translated into English, particularly as her talent for writing crime develops further.