20 books of summer (2017), Author, Bloomsbury, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Lucie Whitehouse, Publisher, Setting, UK

‘The Bed I Made’ by Lucie Whitehouse

The bed I made by Lucie Whitehouse

Fiction – Kindle edition; Bloomsbury Publishing; 320 pages; 2010.

British author Lucie Whitehouse does a nice line in stories about women who fall in love with psychopathic men.

In her 2014 novel Before We Met, 30-something Hannah Reilly slowly realises that the man she has hurriedly married may not be the fine upstanding citizen and successful businessman he purports to be; in The Bed I Made, an earlier novel first published in 2010, Kate Gibson enters an erotically charged relationship with a successful property developer who isn’t quite as charming and kind-hearted as she initially thought.

Admittedly, both novels aren’t entirely believable, but who cares? I raced through The Bed I Made in a matter of a few days and found it got me over a minor reading slump (co-incidentally, Before We Met did exactly the same thing three years ago). I loved its gripping cat-and-mouse narrative, the atmospheric island setting and the compelling dynamic between two mismatched characters.

A new life on the Isle of Wight

The book opens with Kate, a translator, relocating from London to the wintry Isle of Wight, just off the Hampshire coast, for what appears to be a temporary change of scenery.  Here, she follows the case of a local woman who’s believed to be missing at sea, but before long it’s clear that it is Kate’s own life that is in danger.

In a fast-paced narrative that switches between the present and the past, we learn that Kate’s ex-boyfriend, an attractive man with whom she’d had a passionate relationship for more than a year, isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Now she’s ignoring his increasingly insistent and worryingly nasty pleas, via email and text message, to get back together — but at what cost?

This psychological thriller ratchets up the tension and suspense the further you get into it, and Whitehouse weaves a gripping tale of a young woman being stalked by a dangerous man while trying to reinvent a new life for herself.

The atmospheric setting, of an insular, close-knit coastal community with its own secrets to keep, adds to the often overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia that ensues with each turn of the page.

Typical of this genre, the ending becomes slightly hysterical (for want of a better word) and my interest began to wane as soon as I realised Kate’s best friend had succumbed to Richard’s charms: the denouement was as predictable, and as over-the-top, as I expected.

Yet The Bed I Made is a wonderful form of escapism. It’s thrilling and tense, the sort of book that keeps you turning the pages long into the night. It’s not highbrow fiction by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes it’s good to simply romp through a book without thinking about it too much.

This is my 3rd book for #20booksofsummer. I bought it in June 2014, based on the strength of Whitehouse’s Before We Met, which I reviewed that same month. I also bought her debut novel, The House at Midnight, which remains unread. Both were just £1.54 each as part of a Kindle promotion.

Author, Bloomsbury, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, London, Lucie Whitehouse, Publisher, Setting

‘Before We Met’ by Lucie Whitehouse


Fiction – Kindle edition; Bloomsbury; 289 pages; 2014.

Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met may just be the best £1.54* I’ve spent in quite awhile. Anxious to read something fast-paced and thriller-ish to get me over a reading slump (I would pick up a book, quickly get bored or distracted, put it aside and begin the process all over again with another title), I found this novel to be the perfect foil to a series of disappointing starts.

Told in the third person, but largely from the perspective of 30-something Hannah Reilly, it has a noirish psychological feel to it, a kind of cross between Helen Fitzgerald and Nicci French. I’ve since heard it billed as a British Gone Girl, which I’m not sure is a good comparison  — that book might have been fast-paced and fun, but it was over written and had a ludicrous and unbelievable plot.

Before We Met does, occasionally, stray into the over-written territory (far too much unnecessary description and back story, for instance), but it never seems too far-fetched to be true. I read it with a  growing sense of unease and a desperate need to get to the end as quickly as possible, just to see how everything panned out.

A husband’s secrets

Set in modern day West London (and some very familiar locations, such as Hammersmith and Bishop’s Park, to this reader), it tells the story of one woman slowly realising that the man she has married – after a whirlwind romance – may not be the fine upstanding citizen and successful businessman he purports to be.

The pair of them have a happy marriage — not surprising, given they’ve only been together for eight months — but the cracks begin to appear when Mark fails to arrive home after a business trip to New York. Could the plane have crashed? Could he have missed his flight? Why isn’t he answering his phone or emails?

With Hannah’s paranoia going into overdrive, she does some digging around, only to discover that Mark’s work colleagues think he’s in Rome for a romantic weekend. She’s devastated by the prospect of him having an affair. She’s even more devastated when she realises he’s also done some “creative accounting” on her behalf.

From there, the fast-paced narrative swings from one revelation to another. All kinds of dirty secrets and blatant lies are uncovered, and the tension mounts to a nailbiting — and violent — conclusion.

Before We Met is not exactly rocket science and the characters aren’t particularly well fleshed out, but if you’re looking for a holiday read you could do worse than pack this one in your suitcase. It’s a proper page-turner, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and bucketloads of suspense. I gulped it down in just a couple of sittings and stayed up late into the night to finish it, something I haven’t done in a very long time.

* The price of the Kindle edition on Amazon during a recent promotion. The normal recommended price is £7.99.