Alison Reid is a nervous, edgy, woman who works in a library. She feels insecure in her life and in her job. She feels that her boss wants to get rid of her, and she is certain that her ex-husband, Jack, is following her. She is extremely paranoid and leaves small traps in her apartment, so that she will know if someone was there. Things like lining up her pens in a certain order etc. She seems unwell, both mentally and physically, and her appearance is unkempt. Her memory has holes in it, and she cannot rest. Then, when she hears a certain name, it all comes flooding back.
THEN – Alison and Jack Reynolds are living in Bristol. In recent years they have been undergoing IVF treatments which has put a strain on their otherwise happy marriage. Now, miraculously, Alison has just given birth to a baby daughter. The birth itself was traumatic and Alison does not immediately bond with her baby, Tilly. However, she is loathe to leave her, even for a moment as the weight of responsibility consumes her every waking moment. And she is not sleeping, so she has a LOT of waking moments. Her husband, Jack, fears for her health and emotional stability. She won’t let him help her in caring for their new daughter, and is constantly talking to herself…
Jack loves both Alison and Tilly, but he harbors a secret that could be the undoing of the already precarious family unit.
Meanwhile, Alison’s behaviour deteriorates rapidly. She harms herself and hears voices that instruct her to act in certain ways, do certain things. She irrationally records her voices and her feelings about her life by writing them down – in black marker – on the walls of her daughter’s nursery. She loses all her trust in Jack and plans to leave him…
The voices are getting louder – Alison would do anything to quieten them.
WOW! “All In Her Head” was a debut thriller that really packed a punch. I feel as though I’ve gone through the wars and come out the other side slightly stunned. A mesmerizing page-turner, it deftly portrayed mental illness and a tortured soul with clarity that was only too real. I found myself holding my breath at times, so real was the predicament of these characters.
This novel begs the question “Are people who come from tragic and dysfunctional backgrounds always destined to repeat history with their own families?” It is a testament to the overwhelmingly destructive power of guilt – whether real or imagined.
And that ending… it chilled me to the bone.
Well done Nikki Smith! I look forward eagerly to whatever you write next. Highly recommended to all fans of domestic thrillers.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Anne Cater via Orion Books.Published by Orion Books on April 2, 2020
ISBN: 9781409192978 ASIN: B07XT69ZXM 336 pages
Nikki Smith lives near Guildford, Surrey with her family and a Burmese cat called Saffi who thinks she’s a dog.
Her debut novel All In Her Head was published in hardback in April 2020 by Orion Crime.