The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker - book review

There are mind games to thrill and chill in an intriguing and utterly gripping novel from Chicago-based author Emily Bleeker, a former tutor who learned to love writing whilst teaching a writers' workshop.

The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker
The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker

Steeped in mystery and gut-wrenching suspense, The Waiting Room takes us on a dark and disturbing journey into the mind a young woman suffering both a tragic bereavement and post-natal depression as she battles to find her missing baby.

Bleeker, who survived a rare form of cancer, pens her blistering, much-acclaimed thrillers – which have included Wreckage, When I’m Gone and Working Fire – straight from the heart, and the result is gritty, psychologically astute stories with a powerful emotional depth.

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And this new rollercoaster tale – brimming with twists, turns and shocking revelations – touches a raw nerve as we watch with bated breath while the complex, dysfunctional and intensely fragile Veronica Shelton is slowly engulfed by grief and terrible secrets.

Ever since her husband Nick died only weeks after the birth of their baby daughter Sophie, post-natal depression has taken hold of illustrator Veronica Shelton. She can’t sleep, she can’t work, and she can’t even bear to touch her beautiful baby.

Her condition has ‘ruled her life like a tyrant’ every day since Nick died despite moving to a new town. Her mother Barb has moved in to help Veronica but she still has ‘no joy or hope or clarity.’

With tears and anger robbing her of a normal life, Veronica finally heeds her mother’s advice to visit a counsellor. But not everything can be reasoned away by Veronica’s condition and despair. A break-in at her house happened, the disturbing sketches she found in her studio are real, and so is the fear for her daughter’s safety… especially when Veronica comes home to a cold, silent nursery and a missing baby.

As she turns from victim to primary suspect, Veronica realises that only she can find her daughter. The authorities aren’t helping; they are only watching. Veronica’s worried mother has suddenly vanished from her life and a new friend seems to be keeping secrets from her too.

Reality is waiting for Veronica in a dark place… because someone’s mind games have only just begun.

Bleeker toys with both our perceptions and our mixed emotions as the intriguing mystery that underscores this heartbreaking story slowly and inexorably throws up some truly jaw-dropping truths about Veronica and the people who enter into her orbit.

The harsh realities of post-natal depression – and the raw, blistering, painful angst from a tragic loss – are exposed with unflinching honesty and extraordinary empathy as the tensions build and the answer to the mystery remains tantalisingly out of sight.

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Each character is perfectly and precisely portrayed and Bleeker’s final, devastating flourish is a twist that few readers will see coming and one which is guaranteed to confound all expectations, and blow the socks of seasoned thriller fans.

Clever, compelling and moving, The Waiting Room will linger in the memory long after the last page has turned…

(Lake Union, paperback, £6.99)