MR. NOBODY - by Catherine Steadman

Published: January 2020 - Ballantine Books.
Genre: Adult / contemporary fiction / thriller.
Pages: 320. 
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / heavy violence towards the end of the book / infrequent gore.  
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 

When a man is found on a British beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him, to international medical experts who are baffled by him, to the national press who call him Mr. Nobody, everyone wants answers. Who is this man? And what happened to him?

Some memories are best forgotten. 

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient in a small town deep in the English countryside. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for, and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same town fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then.

Places aren't haunted . . . people are. 

But now something—or someone—is calling her back. And the more time she spends with her patient, the more alarmed she becomes that he knows the one thing about her that nobody is supposed to know.

My favourite part of Something in the Water (and also what made me so excited to read Mr. Nobody) was Steadman's writing. I love her writing style. But in this novel, it's completely different to the style in her previous book. I don't understand it! It's practically unrecognisable from the beautiful, powerful prose in Something in the Water - the sentence lengths are drastically different, the language in this book has none of the punch and sparkle so evident in Something in the Water, and ultimately it's bland, boring, and unremarkable. It's not badly written, but it's nothing great. What happened? How did that happen? I wish I knew. It's so disappointing.

The plot is mediocre. The pace is slow, the action sparse, and there's not much dialogue. Considering the lacklustre writing, this makes the chunks of text tedious to read. But I did enjoy the mystery aspect. It's clever, it's startlingly original, and the neuroscience aspect is fascinating; I've always been interested in psychology and how trauma and memory are related. I really enjoyed reading about all the psychology and neuroscience involved in the characters' situation. 

The setting is another strong point. It's chilling and beautifully atmospheric. I loved the beach scenes, and the descriptions of Emma's own cabin in the forest. Both locations are suitably eerie.       

  “Sometimes the most terrifying thing is our own imagination.”

I like Emma's character. She's intelligent, thoughtful, resilient, and she's excellent at her job. I enjoyed watching her examine Matthew's condition and think through the complexities of it - I also enjoyed the fact that she's in a woman in a field we don't usually see women, at least not in fiction. It's exciting and unique to watch a female character excel at and delve into this fascinating line of work. 

The secondary cast is a disappointment. I was hoping for more in terms of Chris and Emma's relationship (they were childhood friends, now they meet again and are clearly interested in each other, but they hardly get any page time together and their interactions are so dull). I feel as if this kind of lukewarm, half-hearted relationship was applied to every relationship in the book; the author doesn't go deep, there's no substantial backstory or intricacy to any dynamic, and potential rich relationships like Chris and Emma's "romance" or even Emma and Joe's sibling bond are flat and underdeveloped.   

I also blame the weak relationships on the very weak character personalities, too. Aside from Emma, no one is three-dimensional. The cast is fairly big, but no one is compelling or multifaceted or given any proper backstory, quirks, or agenda. It's a complete waste.

Mr. Nobody is disappointing. I liked Emma and the complexities and freshness of the neuroscience aspect, but the writing and plot fell flat. 

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