Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams - Great Psychological Suspense for Your Consideration!

I waited for him to start talking. The way I was trained, that's what you're supposed to do. Wait for the client to initiate the conversation. You listen attentively, then you "reflect back"--that is, repeat what they've just said, maybe paraphrasing it a bit. Only I don't always do what I'm supposed to. Hardly ever, in fact. These days, after all my years of practice, I trust myself to do whatever comes naturally. So, after a short pause, I asked, "How can I help?"...
"I don't know." He ran a hand through his hair, in a gesture of frustration. "It's a bit..." His voice trailed off.
Silence again. This time I didn't say anything. Experience has taught me that when someone comes to a grinding halt, something interesting is about to be said.
"It's odd...I don't know how to...He blushed.
I wondered if it was going to be premature ejaculation. That's one of the commonest problems I see with men. Especially men under thirty, like this one. So I waited for an opportunity to help him to say it, if that's what it was.
He looked down. The thick, black lashes fluttered against his flushed cheeks. Eventually, he spoke.
"It's to do with buttons," he said.
"Buttons?" I repeated the word quietly, evenly. Reflecting back, you see. Sometimes, of course, it's best to follow the correct procedure.
"Yes, buttons."
I glanced down to see if there was a rivet on his jeans. If there was, it was hidden by his belt.
"Any particular type?"
He looked up at me, relieved that I hadn't laughed at him.
"The plastic ones are worst. The ones with four little holes. But I don't like any of them, actually."
There was a pause. "Well," I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile. "That's not as unusual as you might think. It's a well-known syndrome. It's got a name. Koumpounophobia...
"I see." He smiled at me a little warily. "Well, I'm not that bad. I can talk about buttons. I can't wear them, but I can cope with seeing them. From a distance. I won't touch them, though. And if they come loose. Or fall off..." He shuddered.
The House on the Cliff
By Charlotte Williams

I am normally intrigued by psychological suspense and how writers manipulate personal issues as part of the mystery. Surely Jessica Mayhew, a successful therapist, had not imagined that this extremely good-looking young man would begin their first session in sharing his fear of buttons...

Frankly, she also didn''t expect to find herself, a long-time professional in her 40s, being attracted to her new patient, Gwydion Morgan...

Actually, I'm giving you a hint by sharing the particular excerpt and if you, as a reader, pay particular attention to details, you will later add these words to an anguished statement which began to explain what his fear really was directed toward... Ahhh, the pleasures of an excellent novel in one of your favorite genres! And I'll willingly share that I missed identifying who did it, so you know that means extra kudos for the author!

"Who the hell's parked their bloody car in the--?
he burst out. Then, seeing me, he stopped. He was
a well-built, good-looking man in his fifties or so,
with exactly the same luminous green eyes as his
"Evan. This is Dr. Mayhew." Arianrhod seemed to
be surprised by his outburst. Dr. Mayhew, my
husband, Evan Morgan."...
We shook hands briefly. He looked remarkably
youthful, I noticed, and remarkably like Gwydion
except for the lines on his forehead and temples,
his jutting cheekbones and the lilac shadows under
his eyes. But there was nothing of Gwydion's
insecurity in his demeanor.
He let go of my hand and turned to Arianrhod. Is
Gwydion out of bed yet?"
"Not yet, no." An anxious note crept into her
voice. "But he'll be up sooner or later, I'm sure..."
"So, no joy, eh?" He turned to me, a look of
exasperation on his face. "I really don't know
what we're going to do with him. Lying around
in bed all day, like a teenager. Still tied to his
mother's apron strings. I despair of him..."
I didn't reply, but I felt my anger rising. No
wonder Gwydion has problems, with a father like
this, I thought...

There are some issues with the Psychiatrist that some will find a problem perhaps. Myself, I tend to feel that just because somebody is a professional in a particular field that they don't have problems themselves. It was even noted that, at one point, she knew she should have talked to her own therapist. So, having thoughts about her new younger client, just at the time that her husband had felt he had to confess, immediately, that he'd just had a one-night fling--well, I didn't have a problem with it...

My problem was with the husband who decided his guilt was worth stressing out his wife as soon as he'd returned home... I sometimes wonder about my way of thinking, have you? LOL...

Ioan Gruffudd
Anyway, my choice for Gwydion was another young Welsh actor and if any of you women readers would say that he wasn't worth a thought, well, I guess I'm just going to say, "Sigh, such a shame, really, that you have no taste...LOL

After I'd spoken to Mari on the phone, and found out that the girl who'd drowned in the bay was in fact the Morgans' au pair, I'd felt a compulsion to investigate further. In fact it had become something of an obsession. I knew that, to some degree, I had no own agenda here, that I was doubtless projecting my anger at Bob onto Evan, the philanderer par excellence. However, I was genuinely moved by Gwydion's story. I wanted to help him, and time was moving on: he was due to start rehearsals in only a few weeks, and unless he could get the insomnia and the button phobia under control before that, he might well struggle to cope. Moreover, I was convinced that the dream held the key to his problem. I'd come to believe that the jolt, as well as representing his desire to heal the rift between his parents, and thus within himself, might actually be a memory of a real, traumatic event that had occurred in his childhood--an accident, perhaps, that had been covered up, and lied about, by Evan... I'd searched for information...a couple walking their dog had found a young woman's body on the beach, that the police had established she was Elsa Lindberg, a nineteen-year-old student from Stockholm...and that she'd drowned as a result of being swept away by the current while swimming on her own..."

Actually, what we have here in a cold case! Was the au pair actually murdered? If I were in Jessica Mayhem's shoes about the time of the story, I can see myself delve into this whole mess, purposely going in over my head. Of course, she had no business getting involved, but, by law, she wasn't allowed to share what was coming from Gwydion, nor did she feel that she could help him if she didn't know more about what actually happened. Getting away from a husband who expected her to quickly forgive and forget...well, that was a side benefit that she probably needed in her personal life at that time...

I enjoyed the story very much. There was just a touch of gothic atmosphere with the setting for Gwydion's home that got me in the right mood to assume murder, LOL.  I'd enjoy Jessica in further stories, especially when she's not so personally involved, although this certainly helped the author build up the various roles...

There's an interesting twist between Jessica, Bob, and this family. Depending on the situation overall, I might feel differently, but in my opinion, Bob knifed Jessica in the back metaphorically. If you read it, tell me what you think. And I don't mean the personal infidelity but rather, a professional attack after that... I might even be curious enough on that exchange to write the author to ask what she was thinking... Anyway... Highly recommended if this sounds at all interesting to you...



After studying philosophy in college, Charlotte Williams went on to work as an arts journalist, writing for newspapers and magazines, and making documentaries for the BBC. She now works in radio drama, writing original plays and adaptations.

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