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News > Alumni > The Unheard by Nicci French

The Unheard by Nicci French

Sean French (1978) introduces his latest psychological thriller 'The Unheard', written together with his partner, Nicci Gerrard, under the name of Nicci French.
13 Jul 2021
Written by Renee Choi
Book cover of The Unheard
Book cover of The Unheard

Sean French on The Unheard by Nicci French

There are so many kinds of thrillers: whodunnits, locked room mysteries, police procedurals, techno-thrillers, spy thrillers. As for us - my wife Nicci Gerrard and I -  who write together under the name, Nicci French, we’ve always been interested in the suspense stories that come out of everyday life. We’re fascinated not so much by terrorists and bombs and shoot-outs but by the feelings that we can all understand. 

Book cover of The UnheardWe take apparently mundane anxieties - what happens when a relationship goes wrong? how much do we really know about those closest to us - and turn the dial a few notches. Most parents will have experienced their young children coming back from nursery school with an unintelligible drawing they’ve done that day. You ask them what it is and their explanation isn’t much help. Nicci and I will have a conversation about a memory like this and then, being the kind of people we are, ask: how could this be a thriller?

Our new book, The Unheard, begins with Tess, a young woman, collecting her three-year-old daughter, Poppy, who has spent the weekend with her father. Sorting through Poppy’s bag, Tess finds a drawing that her daughter has done while she was away. It seems to show that Poppy has witnessed a murder. She calls the police but there is a problem: apart from the picture, there is no other evidence of a murder or even a death of any kind. And a three-year-old is a completely unreliable witness. 

That was the idea that hooked us: a murder story with no apparent murder, no apparent body and a witness who can’t explain what she has seen.

What we tried to write in this story - apart from we hope a gripping work of suspense - is about what can happen when a long relationship breaks up and you realise that your life wasn’t the safe, stable thing you thought it was. Tess realises she has been lied to by everyone, including her own friends. So what can she do?

That’s the sort of suspense that interests us. We’re taught from childhood to beware of strangers. But the statistics show it’s our friends and relatives we should really be scared of. Anyone who lives in a family has material for a lifetime of psychological thrillers. 

'The Unheard' will be out on 16th September. Click here to pre-order 'The Unheard'.

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