Charlotte Williams attracted me to The House on the Cliff with the lure of famous actor Gwydion Morgan connected to the mysterious death of his au pair decades earlier, and his therapist, the protagonist Jessica Mayhew, involved in her own issues, including a cheating husband and a daughter going through a rebellious stage.
All of these elements had the makings of a brilliant thriller, but the novel fell flat for me. I sympathized for Jessica, whose husband had a one-night stand with a co-worker, but I began to think much less of her later on in the book when she jeopardized her practice by having an entanglement with Gwydion, her client. I know very little about the protocol with therapy, but the one thing I do know is that there is doctor/patient confidentiality. I was completely shocked at how little Jessica seemed to respect Gwydion as a client; she shared far more with her husband and her friend, Mari, about Gwydion’s case than I felt she should have. Also up for scrutiny are Jessica’s parenting skills. When her daughter, Nella, becomes involved with an ex-client, Jessica does not become as involved in protecting her daughter as she should have.
By far the most intriguing aspect of the novel was the cold case involving Gwydion’s au pair, his disturbingly close relationship with his mother, and Jessica’s husband’s possible involvement with the drowning. I admit that I’m not always right in guessing the identity of the culprit, but this mystery was far too easy to solve, and I had it figured out well before the climax of the novel.
Williams’ writing was certainly fine in terms of pacing and structure, but the fact that I could not connect with her main character or her plausibility as a capable therapist distracted me from the entertainment value that The House on the Cliff may have otherwise provided me.
It’s possible that I may consider reading other works by Charlotte Williams in the future, but if they feature Jessica Mayhew or any of the other characters introduced in this book, I will absolutely have to pass.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided by Bourbon Street Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.