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Today we are really pleased to welcome bestselling authors and husband and wife team, Nicci French, to Alternative-Read.com
The Unheard by Nicci French
The Unheard by Nicci French, the pseudonym for husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, is a gripping psychological thriller. Anyone who is a mother can relate to this story where the emphasis is a mother knowing and understanding their child.
Tess Moreau is the mother of three-year-old Poppy. She and her partner, Jason, have gone their separate ways and have agreed on a custody timeline. But something has gone very wrong after Poppy spends a night with Jason, his current wife, and her brother who is living with them. The child is clingy, wetting her bed, cussing, and drawing pictures of death. None of these behaviors were evident before. Tess goes into overdrive as she tries to figure out if Poppy witnessed a murder, saw an act of violence, or was abused. As Poppy continues to act out, Tess goes to the police, convinced a crime was committed, but has no evidence. She is frustrated because no one believes her, not the police, her friends, her mother, her current boyfriend, her estranged partner, and school officials.
Readers sympathize with Tess, understanding her feeling of helplessness. She experiences every parent’s nightmare of a young child. Her daughter does not yet have the words to express what was upsetting her and could only try to do so through drawings and behavior. But a mother knows her daughter. Tess knows something is wrong, and she is determined to find the truth because she understands more than anyone that something is seriously wrong. The reader takes a journey with Tess as they try to figure out what happened to Poppy, as suspects pile up.
This story will have anyone who reads it sharing Tess’s emotions of anger, fears, suspicions, and worries. Just when someone thinks they know who the culprit is the authors throw another twist, keeping them guessing and the tension elevated.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Nicci French: We had children and remember that strange transition with three-year-olds. A strange mysterious time. They would bring home these drawings from pre-school. When we thought about that period we wondered if we could make it into a thriller. A three-year-old girl draws what looks like a murder and is too young to explain it.
EC: Sometimes children are not believed?
NF: Yes, they can be unreliable witnesses as they try to tell their mother something. Poppy, the daughter, cannot express in words so she tells Tess something is wrong with her behavior of clinginess, bed-wetting, acting out, and cussing. Three-year-old children are not articulate. They cannot describe what happened to them. Children think differently about the world.
EC: How would you describe Tess?
NF: Fragile, a single mother, at times over-protective, fearful, vulnerable, and anxious. As the story progresses, she becomes a mother who will do anything to save her child. Tess takes a journey and finds self-realization. She becomes strong and realizes her own self-worth. But she is put through hell and back.
EC: Tess cannot trust those in her life?
NF: We examine this theme in all our novels: how can someone know anyone completely since everybody has secrets.
EC: Should the detectives have investigated Poppy’s symptoms?
NF: Symptoms of abuse are like symptoms of trauma and distress. Tess is now in a world where nothing is clear. The detectives see this as a nontraditional investigation where there is no reliable witness and no crime committed. Look at it from the detectives’ point of view. All they had was a drawing of a three-year-old child.
EC: How would you describe Poppy?
NF: Before her trauma she is bright, connected, eager, energetic, with a rich imagination. She thinks the world is on her side. But then she becomes violent and aggressive and seems to have an intuitive sense that something is wrong.
EC: How would you describe Jason?
NF: He appears charming, likeable, and trustworthy. He is an alpha-male who is a strong authoritative figure and feels entitled. He does what he wants to do. He becomes more and more self-centered, impatient, a cheat, liar, and bully.
EC: How about Aiden, Tess’ current boyfriend?
NF: In many ways he is the opposite of Jason. Aiden is quieter, more introverted, geek-like, a listener, non-judgmental, and patient.
EC: What about the relationship between Tess and all the males in the story?
NF: They are all manipulative in their own way. Somehow their masculinity has gone awry. They use her vulnerability against her. She starts to feel she is surrounded by illusions and wonders who to trust.
EC: Poppy tells Tess she is dead?
NF: Poppy knows she saw something and is wondering if the future will be like the past. Poppy does not understand the difference between dying and being dead. She does not have a normal sense of cause and effect in the past and future.
EC: In some ways this plot reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”?
NF: We are big Hitchcock fans. If we did it, we did not do it consciously. But we have seen that film many times. We understand how you could think it since both have someone seeing a crime and are not believed. We share with Hitchcock the real horror of relationships, especially between a man and a woman.
EC: Your next book?
NF: A young woman, a doctor, has her ex-boyfriend ask for a favor. Then things go very wrong. It will be out in October 2022 and is titled The Favor.
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The Unheard by Nicci French
“Nicci French is a specialist in the kind of evil that burrows from within.” —New York Times Book Review
In this new heart-pounding standalone from the internationally bestselling author that People calls “razor sharp,” a single mother suspects her young daughter has witnessed a horrible crime when the girl draws a disturbing picture—but the deadly path to unravel the truth could cost her everything.
Maybe Tess is overprotective, but passing her daughter off to her ex and his new young wife fills her with a sense of dread. It’s not that Jason is a bad father—it just hurts to see him enjoying married life with someone else. Still, she owes it to her daughter Poppy to make this arrangement work.
But Poppy returns from the weekend tired and withdrawn. And when she shows Tess a crayon drawing—an image so simple and violent that Tess can hardly make sense of it——Poppy can only explain with the words, “He did kill her.”
Something is horribly wrong. Tess is certain Poppy saw something—or something happened to her—that she’s too young to understand. Jason insists the weekend went off without a hitch. Doctors advise that Poppy may be reacting to her parents’ separation. And as the days go on, even Poppy’s disturbing memory seems to fade. But a mother knows her daughter, and Tess is determined to discover the truth. Her search will set off an explosive tempest of dark secrets and buried crimes—and more than one life may be at stake.