Slow-burn and character-driven, it’s almost impossible to let go of the pages of this skillfully plotted debut novel by Katherine Faulkner. We simply have to see what this mix of characters do next. No one here is straight-up likable or trustworthy, and the result is a beautiful amalgamation of character flaws that imbue this psychological thriller with a delicious air of whodunnit suspense.
The story’s protagonist is head-in-the-clouds Helen. Although she’s not the only woman who tells this story. Way back when, Helen went to Cambridge with brother Rory and friends Daniel and Serena. It’s now years later, and the four are all grown up and married: Helen to Daniel, Rory to Serena, and the two couples are each expecting their first child. Helen is also still wholly nostalgic about those Cambridge days. And since there’s that family connection, the four have, in fact, remained connected. To the delight of some more than others. Helen stares at Serena with a kind of devotion reserved for … well, not mortals. If Serena has a set of driftwood shelves, Helen has to have them. That Helen’s husband, Daniel, finds this behavior a little worrisome is understandable.
Still, Daniel is not the ideal husband. None of the men on the page here are storybook heroes. Daniel is married to his job at the architecture firm he runs with Helen’s brother. At least, that’s what he claims. We get a bit of a strange vibe from the guy. Helen’s brother (also a fellow architect) inherited the firm from their late father, but what Rory does best is coke at nightclubs. Rory and Helen, that’s where the money’s at; they’re settled with the kind of wealth that makes you relaxed about the future. How one can wish. *sighs*
After four miscarriages, Helen’s fifth pregnancy finally looks like it’ll be carried to term, and while she’s off on early maternity leave, she aimlessly wanders through her neighborhood, Greenwich Park. This is where Helen runs into Rachel. Rachel is young, untethered, and distressingly unconcerned about the health of her fetus while she drinks, smokes, eats raw salmon, and ingests cup after cup of caffeine. She’s like fireworks. Even if you don’t like them, you still find your head craning up at the dark night sky to look at the loud sparkly things. Rachel’s behavior is manic and unpredictable compared to Helen’s muted life. Yet Helen, in her loneliness, finds herself slowly won over by Rachel, who keeps popping up wherever she goes. Her encounter with Rachel is what ultimately sets Helen’s entire life off-course. Or was it an event way before that?
Greenwich Park, with its intense sense of foreboding and all the mind games, gave me such Woman in the Window vibes. Helen walks through life in a dreamlike state, with unbridled adoration for her husband, brother, and sister-in-law. When Daniel, Rory, and Serena are a no-show for the first antenatal class, it’s clear that Helen’s fantasy and reality don’t line up, and it instantly and wonderfully sets this slow-burn thriller off-kilter. We don’t know if Helen is an unreliable narrator or if her surroundings are messing with her head. We step into a web of lies and secrets. And oh, the twists this story takes!
Bonus: character-driven thriller; complex characterization; domestic drama; themes of abuse, miscarriage, and especially how women are treated by the legal system and society in the aftermath of rape are well explored.
A skillfully plotted, satisfying psychological thriller that plays mind games with its characters and the reader.
Book: Greenwich Park
Published: Raven Books
Publication Date: April 15th 2021