ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR: The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen

Article published on April 20, 2015.

I don’t read much crime fiction, so I don’t have a yardstick by which to judge the quality of the plot in this book. However it is certainly quite a premise: take a big dollop of conspiracy theory and dump it in the lap of a professional woman who is not only on the autistic spectrum, but also has Asperger’s syndrome. I’m not au fait with the intricacies of this condition but suffice to say that our heroine exhibits it at a very high functioning level.

Dr Maria Martínez is a consultant plastic surgeon in her early 30s. As the name suggests she is Spanish but the entirety of the book takes place in this country. In fact it almost seems as if the book takes place solely in one room, although this isn’t quite the case. Chapter 1 sets the pattern – two first person narratives gradually revealing Maria’s predicament albeit at slightly different times. First, slightly in the future, is Kurt with what is set out as therapy in a room with – you guessed it – a spider in the corner. Therapy will turn into interrogation before long but our second narrative is back in the present where Maria has been incarcerated for the murder of a priest, an action she doesn’t know if she really did or not.

The book’s accompanying press release suggests Ms Owen’s debut is ‘as addictive as the Bourne novels, with a protagonist as original as The Bridge’s Saga Noren’. It’s a long time since I read a Robert Ludlum novel, The Ostermann Weekend, back in 1972 I think, but I am a major fan of the Bourne films, or at least the first three. The Bridge I don’t know at all other than for the high praise it seems to have received in the media. What I do know is that Nikki Owen can write in a very high octane fashion that made me feel like I should be hyperventilating at times.

Poor Maria is really put through the wringer and I’m not sure she could physically sustain all the action she goes through, nor the amount of vomiting and violence she suffers without going catatonic. However, a generous helping of hysteria never stopped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo catching the public imagination. And since this book is also the start of a trilogy I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being pitched to you all in the same way, perhaps I’m already starting to do that on Mira’s behalf? (Thinks, have I been brainwashed?)

Seriously, even though this isn’t usually my kind of reading I was gripped until the end and I got there much more quickly than I expected to. If you liked Dragon Tattoo then I would be interested to know what you make of this particular book.

Guy Pringle, April 2015

The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen is published by Harlequin Mira in June 2015.

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