Saturday 27 May 2017 News Updated at 08:05 AM IST
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Thrilling vices - Deccan Herald
Thrilling vices
Sheila Kumar
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DeccanHerald

Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes keeps you guessing, and even if you think you know where the story is going, you still want to go down that path, to get there at closure point. Throughout, you relish the mystery and the deliberate holding back of information because you know it’s building up to something big, something good, something deliciously worthy of a thriller. And both the book and the writer deliver.

The story seems simple enough at the outset. Louise meets David at a bar, finds herself very attracted to him, the feelings seem mutual. Then, she finds out that not only is he married, he’s her boss, too. She then meets David’s wife Adele who, willy-nilly becomes Louise’s best friend.

An extra-marital affair, a friendship with questionable underlying motives, a look into a crazed mind, a suspicion of murder in the past... all of these are brought together deftly and serve to keep the reader hooked and engrossed. There are no real twists and turns in this book, it is more a pathway through a forest so thick that one only gets hints of what is to come, and fails to see it properly until it’s right there in front.

The story proceeds mainly through the perspectives of Louise and Adele, and moves smoothly from the mundane - the daily life of your average salaryman - into the incredible, travelling through one’s dreams. This part is so incredible that it does require some suspension of disbelief. Don’t let that fantastical element put you off, though. Pinborough manages to win you over by this time, so that you go along with it for the sake of the story. We also get insights into these two characters, each woman’s thoughts and motives, how they see each other, and of course, how each of them sees David.

It’s hard not to like Louise. She’s at a particularly low point in life, having found out that her ex-husband is having a baby, when these two people appear in quick succession in her life and give her just the distraction and affection she craves. She loves both Adele and David and finds herself unable to quit either relationship, no matter how guilty she feels. She needs them, and they seem to need her too, each in their own way.

Adele, fascinating Adele, leaves us with question after question. What does she want from her husband? Did those bruises really come from walking into the kitchen cupboard? What happened in that fire all those years ago? What about her friend Rob?

All through, we are taken through Adele’s actions and given her point of view, and while we can see exactly what she is doing, we are constantly, uncomfortably guessing what her motives really are. We wonder if she is a modern version of du Maurier’s Rebecca, or are we reading too much into it all? We don’t like her character very much; we definitely don’t want to identify with her, but we do want to know more, much more about her.

And then, there’s David. With these two fully-developed women characters, he doesn’t have much to do, though one wishes we could have glimpsed a little more of what attracted Louise to him. We see the dark bits very quickly but aren’t too convinced about his appeal. He seems a nice enough guy at times, but we have to take Louise’s word for it when it comes to how alluring he is. Then again, we do that, because we like Louise.

Pinborough has paid great attention to details. Small things which seem like character quirks turn out to be quite important later, which is always a pleasure for the reader. However, one thing that stands out oddly is the unnatural withholding of information when it comes to a crucial diary. Louise finds and reads this diary which has interesting information and yet, she only reads it in pieces, just enough to keep the plot moving and no further. This doesn’t seem plausible; one would imagine that she would have read all of it in a few hours, since the contents are relevant to her personally.

Apart from this, and a couple of editing errors, Behind Her Eyes is a fun, absorbing read which has the reader smiling widely at the final, clever reveal.


Sarah Pinborough is a popular Young Adult and adult author and screenwriter, who writes a lot in the thriller and fantasy genres. Behind Her Eyes has done really well worldwide, and is in talks for a film version as well.


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