I bring you a book in a genre I read many books in. This is the first in a series, so if you like psychological thrillers, this might be for you. But it does come with a warning. Or several.
DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington
THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW.
Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:
I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.
After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.
For fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French, and Alex Michaelides comes the newest voice in psychological fiction.
CONTENT GUIDANCE: This novel explores aspects of psychology and mental health and contains depictions of self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Please read with care.
Link to the book:
Link to the publisher’s website:
About the author:
Louise Worthington writes psychological fiction for fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French and Alex Michaelides. She has a passion for exploring the complexity and darker side of the human heart in tales imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings from poisonous gardens, medieval dungeons to an isolated property by the sea. Common themes are family, motherhood, making money from murder and revenge.
I thank Maria from TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This novel had been published before, but this is a new revised edition.
I was intrigued by the premise of the novel (having worked in mental health, I am always interested in seeing how the subject is portrayed), and although the author has published a number of books before, this is the first time I read her work. This is intended to be the first in a series, and I suspect it won’t be the last one I read.
The book’s description offers enough clues as to the story’s content, and I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers by adding too many details. The content guidance also hints at some of the themes. This is a novel that deals with topics that many people might find upsetting or disturbing. Although this is not unusual with psychological thrillers, be warned that this novel is pretty open and honest in its depiction of extreme behaviours (self-harm, abusive relationships, murder/suicide, filicide, somewhat unusual sexual preferences, eating disorders, co-dependency…) and a variety of mental health problems (PTSD, pathological grief, personality disorder, Stockholm Syndrome…) This is not a sanitised version of any of those problems, and readers need to be aware of that. (I worked as a psychiatrist and have seen my share of things, although, thankfully, not everything that goes on in the book, and I didn’t find it disturbing, but I am not the standard reader, so do take the warnings seriously). Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a touch of the supernatural/paranormal as well.
I am always interested in the therapist in the novels featuring one, and Emma-Jane Glass is a woman totally dedicated to her work, who at first appears very professional and self-confident, but what she goes through makes her question much of what she thought was certain. Her experiences and thought processes, although extreme (I won’t mention suspension of disbelief, because we all know this is a novel, after all), rang true (not that I’ve ever met a therapist who regularly uses hypnosis in my professional capacity, but then I’ve always worked in hospitals, mostly for the NHS, so it might be more common in private practice), although I missed knowing more about her, where she came from, and her background. We only learn about her friendship with Lucy, who has an office next door and works as a nutritionist, and we also hear about her supervisor, Celia (whom we never meet until very close to the end), but there is nothing else of a personal nature. The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Dr Glass’s point of view but not exclusively, although that does not help us understand who she is, beyond her professional identity and interest. (It does give us some interesting insights into the minds of some of the minor characters, though). This being a series, it is possible that those aspects will be developed in other books, but I missed that. Lucy is a likeable character, full of doubts and not as self-confident as Emma-Jane. We know about an important loss she suffered, and there are times when it feels as if her friend was living vicariously through her whilst trying to help her at the same time (as Dr Glass seems to be more involved in Lucy’s life than interested in having a private life of her own). I liked her, but I wasn’t sure the relationship between the two was sufficiently developed either.
I don’t want to go into too much detail talking about other characters. The main antagonist (whom I wouldn’t define as a standard baddie) does terrible things, but he has also gone through some soul-destroying suffering, and he is evidently very disturbed. Although his emotions and his most extreme behaviours come across as pretty realistic, there are elements of his characterization I wasn’t too sure about, but I don’t think anybody will feel indifferent about him. There are some other characters that make an appearance, and I was particularly moved by the story of one of Dr Glass’s patients, Vanessa, and her experience of grief. Some reviewers found the details about the sessions, both Dr Glass’s and Lucy’s, unnecessary, as they felt they detracted from the main story. Apart from my personal interest in the subject, I did think that the sessions help give us a better understanding of the thought processes of the protagonists, and also illustrate the kind of strain and pressures they are subject to, which go some way to explaining how they react at times. The rest of the characters are not fully developed, and there are a few things readers will be left wondering about, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The author writes beautifully, and there are lyrical passages, vibrant images, and masterful use of metaphors, which contrast with the darkness of some of the content while offering readers a reprieve and mirroring how the mind works, finding beauty in unexpected places and in extreme situations sometimes, as a self-defense mechanism and refuge. Some parts of the novel move at a faster pace than others, and, in general, the action picks up speed as the story develops, until almost the very end. There is an unexplained prologue, which many readers have complained about, and although it seems related to one of the topics that appear in the novel, it is not fully contained by it, and it made me wonder.
As usual, I recommend checking a sample of the novel if readers are not sure if it might suit their taste (making sure to heed the warnings first), but I thought I’d share a couple of examples of some of the content I’ve highlighted, to give you a small taste:
She finds the quietness of Vanessa’s sad smile moving, and she respects the way she wears her pain like glass: transparent, fragile. So brave, to not wear a brave face; to wear a real, feeling one.
She watches a spider slowly crawl across the ceiling and onto the lampshade, sprinkling dust like dandruff. All that ceiling, all those walls, they’re like acres, countries, to a spider. Such freedom. Here she sits, trapped in a web. The spider’s unhurried movement stirs the mounting hysteria building inside her.
I have already mentioned that some things are left to readers’ imaginations, although the main story has an ending, and one pretty satisfying, at least for the main character. Considering the amount of time and detail dedicated to developing the story, I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but as this is a series, such things are likely to get balanced out in the future.
This is an enticing opening to a new series, one that promises to dig deep into psychological subjects, and if the characters keep growing, it will become even more compelling. I’d recommend it to readers looking for psychological thrillers that don’t mind digging deep into dark subjects, but please, make sure to check the content guidance.
Thanks to Maria, to the publishers, and to the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, don’t forget to keep smiling and keep safe.