REVIEW: Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman

In brief: A man is found wandering on a beach with no memories. For Dr Emma Lewis, this represents an opportunity to make her name. But the man knows more about Emma than anyone else…

The good: Fascinating look at memory with all the chills of a good thriller.

The not-so-good: It gave me a couple of late nights.

Why I chose it: I don’t mind a psychological thriller done well. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

Year: 2020

Pages: 344

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: Primarily Norfolk, England

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I’m getting back into reading more thrillers of late. I like the fast-paced events, the twists and the turns and that not everything has to end in a gunfight. Mr Nobody intrigued me for two reasons – the person with no memories whatsoever has the potential to be anything and how the experts will unlock this mystery using science and a little good luck. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of how different parts of the brain react to certain situations even if the person can’t recall the details of the memory. Of course, there are a couple of intriguing mysteries too.

Mr Nobody is the name given to a man who is found wandering along the beach in the middle of winter, dripping wet. He has no idea who he is and has nothing that could identify him on his person. He is taken to the local hospital, where he forms a bond with his nurse in the emergency department, even though he cannot speak. He also manages to thwart a potentially dangerous situation on the ward. This of course gets the press interested who coin the term ‘Mr Nobody’. With a previous disastrous case of a malingerer that was savaged in the press, the British government are keen to do better with this case of potential fugue. Enter Dr Emma Lewis, a neuropsychiatrist who has been bold in her reviews of fugue cases and how they could have been better diagnosed. Emma is asked to go to Norfolk to run tests on Mr Nobody (now being called Matthew), but she has her own personal reasons for not wanting to go. Still, it’s the potential case of a lifetime. But when she meets Matthew, he tells her things nobody else knows…who is this man?

Mr Nobody is somewhat of a slow burn as Mr Nobody’s thoughts on the beach and in the early days of his hospital stay are described. Emma’s expertise and reluctance to return to her home town are also established, but without telling the reader much at all, which is just how I like my thrillers. Give me puzzle clues and let my imagination run wild. (It took quite some time for me to narrow down the possibilities of what had occurred in her past). The last 100 or so pages are in contrast, an absolute rollercoaster. So much is happening and there is so much to take in as everything you though to be true is shattered. It was quite a change of pace from the steady, slower steps of the first parts but it didn’t feel out of place. Likewise, the story is written in an unusual fashion. It’s told in the present tense, by Emma in the first person and Mr Nobody in the third person. When describing it, it sounds like it shouldn’t work but it really does. Present tense isn’t really my thing unless the writing is good. In Mr Nobody, the tense just adds to the sense that something is going to change any minute now…for the worse.

Mr Nobody is a ripper of a thriller, persevere with the setting up of the scene and you will be rewarded with not only the skeletons in Emma’s closet, but who Mr Nobody really is (you will never guess who, which is the key to a sound thriller)!

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