The Blame Game - a twisty psychological thriller
The Blame Game by Sandie Jones
Published 8/16/22; 256 pages
First sentence: "I'm sure, as soon as I see the door ajar, that something has happened."
Main characters: Naomi, the therapist, and her husband Leon; patients Jacob and Anna
Naomi is a New Yorker, transplanted to a small town in England when she married her husband, Leon. She runs a private therapy office from her home specializing in domestic abuse. We get hints that her choice of profession has to do with childhood trauma and the death of her mom. Told in the first person from Naomi's perspective, she thinks of herself as a caring, go-the-extra-mile type of therapist. She wants to do everything she can for her clients.
We meet two of her clients: Jacob, a man being abused and controlled by his wife. After several months, Naomi feels that he's making progress and has left his wife, though he has to do it in hiding so she can't force him to return home. Anna is the other client and she's dealing with a crumbling relationship after the death of her toddler son.
Through a series of convoluted twists, Jacob goes missing, the police become involved and Naomi starts drowning in her lies. She started out with tiny lies to her husband about Jacob, then bigger ones, then lying to the police - all from a place of innocence (or is she?). As she spirals, her marriage suffers and she starts to wonder at her own sanity. The small secondary storyline is of a long estranged sister who may be trying to get in touch with her. Could it be that she's orchestrating all this chaos in Naomi's life?
Because the focus of The Blame Game is Naomi, we really get sucked into the whirlwind that is her life. That feeling of losing control and not understanding why things are happening really sucks the reader into the maelstrom. However, in looking back, the chaos is totally self generated. As a character who is supposedly a trained therapist, she's amazingly out of control in her own mind and life.
I liked the first twist (which happens pretty early on) about Jacob which was a bit unexpected. However, the whole premise of the story is based on the stack of lies that everyone tells, which eventually just becomes boring. The swirling aspect of the lying, the secrets, the clues for the police, etc. does build tension, but the repetition of the same storytelling device also became tiresome. Almost every novel needs secrets to propel the plot. Well these secrets overwhelmed the plot and became too unwieldy.
I never really got the point of the secondary storyline with her dad and sister. There were lots of implications and it was clearly not memories Naomi had resolved, but I don't feel like it added anything to the story and in fact left all sorts of unanswered questions.
I feel like this is a pretty average thriller. I wanted to like it more but was a little disappointed. Hubby and I had an interesting talk about people in general and truthfulness and when is a lie ever okay, etc. Maybe the book could spark a similar conversation for you.