Anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by a never-ending stream of work emails will experience an instant surge of sympathy for Dr Clancy Mclean, the over-worked psychiatrist at the heart of Lead Me Home, a suspenseful debut from CS Savage.
Those pesky emails are a recurring theme that clearly reflects the reality of an under-resourced mental health service.
Mclean’s days are filled with endless, interminably dull meetings where the only way she can stay awake is to surreptitiously answer emails on her laptop.
Add in a demanding, unsympathetic team manager; a caseload that, like Topsy, seems to grow and grow; and a troublesome teenage daughter and it’s no wonder Mclean feels at the end of her tether.
She knows some of her clients have serious mental health issues that make them a danger to themselves and to the community at large but has neither the time nor the means to provide the care and support they need.
And, though she doesn’t know it, one of those patients is determined to act out the fantasies that are playing through his head.
What the blurb says:
As an overworked NHS psychiatrist, Dr Clancy Mclean is used to dealing with mental illness. But she’s stressed – trying to balance her career and the needs of her only child, Rowan.
And she has her work cut out trying to keep her patients well. She knows two of them are psychotic, and becoming overwhelmed by their voices.
If they act on them it could prove disastrous.
Rowan is troubled. Her boyfriend is abusive but she doesn’t want to end the relationship – she’s too scared of being lonely.
Can she find someone else to keep her company?
And, as if Clancy doesn’t have enough to worry about, another of her patients is paranoid and convinced she is being stalked. Or is it just a symptom of her mental illness?
Because there is a stalker on the prowl and he is getting closer to his victim with each passing day.
It’s a tense, densely plotted storyline, which benefits from a multi-voiced narrative – I love the different perspectives provided by this style of narration.
However, that said, I felt the chapters voiced by Mclean’s murderous patient just didn’t work. Don’t tell the reader what the killer is planning, show what he or she does instead.
It’s not a criticism – no doubt some readers will enjoy these insights.
But, with the exception of Agatha Christie’s ground-breaking murder mystery The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, (see my review here) I can’t think of a single thriller where letting the reader inside the murderer’s head works.
In all other respects though, Savage, herself a psychiatrist, writes with knowledge and sympathy and a keen eye for detail. I particularly liked the description of Mclean’s boss with his dandruff flecked hair and a goatee beard.
A promising start to a new series – I understand Savage, an alumni of the Faber Academy, is currently working on a sequel.
By Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.