Over the course of French’s series, her embattled protagonist, psychiatrist Frieda Klein, is convinced that her arch-nemesis Dean Reeve is still alive and “out to get her.” Even though Friday on My Mind sees Frieda on the run, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, the presence of Reed has been bubbling away in the background. Not helping Freida’s sullied reputation
are the words from Dr. Bradshaw, who tells Met detectives DCI Sarah Hussein and DC Glen Bryant that Frieda can be persuasive and likes to surround herself with people who will prop up her sense of importance. She’s not just an unreliable witness but also dangerous.
The novel begins when the body of Freida’s ex-lover Sandy Holland is pulled from the Thames, just up from Tower Bridge. Although Sandy’s throat was cut, there’s no indication when
the body actually entered the water. Around his left wrist there is a plastic band, the writing barely legible: “Dr. F Klein.” Freida’s expression does not alter when she’s charged with identifying Sandy at the morgue, and she’s absolutely perplexed at why he was wearing her old hospital ID from King Edward hospital.
From here, Frieda’s life alters like a landscape darkened and chilled. DCI Hussein is convinced there is something odd about this woman who is reluctant to divulge any information on Sandy’s final moments. As Hussein begins to challenge Freida over her repeated accusation against Dean Reeve for various murders and attacks, it soon becomes clear that Frieda will become a prime suspect in her lover’s death. According to Hussein, Sandy was still obsessed with her.
He had been harassing her for 18 months before he was murdered. Surrounded by a network of violence and trauma, Frieda is all but certain that she’ll be charged with Holland’s death. Realizing she’s being framed, Freida decides to go on the run, changing her appearance then disappearing into the bowels of immigrant London, far away from her beloved house in the little cobbled mews, squeezed between the lockups on the left and the council flats on the right.
Some aspects of French’s plot are new, particularly Hussein and Bryant as they frantically search for Frieda, convinced she has gone off on some self-indulgent meltdown, wrecking a murder inquiry and breaking the law. Others are well-known: Frieda’s friendship with Josef, who refuses to believe the news that she will be charged for Sandy’s death; and DCI Malcom Karlsson, who Hussein is convinced has fallen under Frieda’s spell. Hussein is convinced that Frieda’s willingness to abscond is a clear admission of guilt. Karlsson, however, is positive that Frieda didn’t commit murder--and that if she did, she would own up to it and not go on the run: “All I can say is that she’s in a disordered state, unrooted homeless.”
Similar in tone to the other episodes in the series, French is a master at building the tension, describing the chaos in Frida’s life as she walks the streets of London at night, forced to stay in one ramshackle, dingy safe house after another. With her shorn hair and bright clothes, she looks thinner and perhaps younger, her large dark eyes always strained and alert and unfamiliar. Frieda finds herself just one step ahead of the authorities, who keep plying Joseph for information on where his friend might be hiding. Despite the ghostly presence of Reeve, the world for Freida seems very far away and she finds it difficult to organize her thoughts: “it’s more like images from a dream than anything coherent.”
As Hussein and the Met finally close in, Frieda shuts her eyes, seeing Sandy as in a sort of montage, specifically the last dreadful walk down the Thames when she finally broke up with him. Even as she cleverly decides to snoop on Sandy’s friends and family (in a plot twist that stretches credibility), Frieda throws herself into the search for his real killer. Meanwhile, the thought of Dean Reeve nags away at her. Freida’s constant preoccupation over Reeve’s whereabouts leads her to feel like she’s suspended in space and time. She thinks of Sandy, now “just ash,” as well as the memory and the future he will never have.
Frida may finally be able to breathe, though she’s certain Reeve is still out there. The shocking ending sets us up for the next episode in the series. Sandy’s killer is eventually caught, but the real threat is still unfolding in an unexpected twist
where poor, vulnerable Josef finds himself innocently aiding and abetting the stuff of nightmares.