Review published on July 1, 2016.
Paul Torday brings an undertone of superb disquiet into the opening chapter of this absorbing psychological thriller. He sees the picture of a girl in a green dress on the landing of his hosts’ house, but when he looks later, she’s not there. From this unsettling beginning, narrated in turn by Michael and his wife Elizabeth, we move deeper and deeper into spooky territory. Elizabeth begins to realise that Michael is changing from the dull bore she married and after delving into his earlier life she finds that he suffered from mental health problems and has been on medication for years. But Michael has come off his pills, and is starting to feel truly alive again. The girl in the green dress pops up everywhere, seen mainly by Michael, and incites him into increasingly violent action. How safe is Elizabeth? The scene shifts to Michael’s gloomy old Scottish estate, and I was on the edge of my sofa, wondering how it would all end.
There is a fascinating comparison between Michael, the heavily medicated man, talking and thinking like a robot, seeing the world through clouded glass, and the new Michael, emerging from his zombie state into vivid life, but haunted by hallucinations urging him towards violence. Torday is a gifted writer, and while this is a compulsive thriller, it is also an examination of the nature of delusion, and the difficulty of ever really knowing the nature of another person, even in the closest relationships. Don’t miss it!
The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday
W&N pbk 2009
When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson
A LIFE’S WORK: The death of an owl by Paul and Piers Torday
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