Cover Image: All in Her Head

All in Her Head

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All is definitely not what it seems in Nikki Smith’s pacy debut, All in her Head. Still, doing justice to its considerable merits without spoilers is almost as much of a challenge as trying to define its genre. Is it women’s fiction, thriller, domestic noir? It is all these things, and more, thanks to a clever tangential shift in tone that effectively splits this story into two. 

When we meet its protagonist Alison at the start of the novel she presents as a woman undone. The circumstances behind her unravelling life are not clear, although it is suggested that the root of it lies in the behaviour of her partner, Jack who she now believes is stalking her and leaving her letters in an attempt at reconciliation. So far, so predictable. The woman in peril trope is one that has formed the backbone of successful commercial fiction for many a year, and had this book followed the same trajectory it would have been solid enough. 

At around the midpoint, however - not unlike the shock reversal in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl - the reader is clued in to the fact that they’ve been misdirected all along and that the story is about something else entirely. Executing such a narrative sleight of hand is a risk at the best of times, which makes its presence in a debut novel all the more admirable. And for the most part it is successful, with Smith giving us just enough rope to hang our assumptions with.

The second and, for me, the stronger part of the novel, is a different beast altogether as we start to understand what exactly is going on in these characters’ lives. Smith is particularly good at inner psychological detail, and the preciseness of its observation and its accumulation is wonderfully done, resulting in periods of the novel that were almost too intense a reading experience at times. This visceral reaction is exactly what you want as an author, indicating, as it does, an emotional investment from the reader in the world you have created. 

There is nothing half-hearted about this book or its desire to face its difficult subject matter head-on, and that is both its strength and, at times, its weakness. I felt, in particular, that the balance of Jack’s narrative, although necessarily slimmer, had the effect of almost minimising his particular dilemma which, at times, affected the credibility of his actions. Interestingly, I had a similar problem with Renee Knight’s Disclaimer, but as the success of that particular book demonstrates, it is not enough to spoil its enjoyment. As good as Smith’s skill at misdirection is too, she sometimes wavers on signposting this intention a little too much in the earlier chapters, with her insistence on what Jack has “done” sometimes threatening to undo the device she has so carefully orchestrated.

There is great readability and urgency to the prose here, with a sense of intrigue that will pull you through the story very quickly. I particularly enjoyed the narrative codas throughout the novel which grow in meaning as their context is revealed.

Overally, this was a brave, confident and skillfully executed debut; a curate’s egg of two halves but without the bad bits. Recommended.

Content warning for references to self-harm, psychological trauma and suicide.  

My thanks to NetGalley and Orion for an advanced copy of the book in return for a fair review.
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All in Her Head has all you want from a psychological thriller: deft plotting, plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, and a twist few readers will see coming. Nikki Smith’s debut demonstrates her mastery in successive reveals which turn the narrative on its head whilst remaining utterly convincing and leading to a satisfying denouement. Nikki Smith is a fantastic new talent.
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All In Her Head is a book that left me reeling. The first part was as I expected, with two different narrators, Ali and Jack, a married couple who for some reason are apart. I suspected conflict of some kind, possibly one afraid of the other. But as I read more, and the reasons why they were living apart became clearer I realised very quickly that what I was reading was completely different, and this novel was a lot more than what I was expecting.

As the story progressed it switched narrator at crucial moments and I needed to carry on reading to find out what happened next. This happened with both characters and it was done brilliantly. Often it doesn’t work well or feel natural but it is a long time since I have felt so tense when reading. I felt fear, frustration and sadness and I can’t even say why. This is a novel which you need to read knowing as little as possible about it. 

An absolutely wonderful novel to read during lockdown, I raced through it.
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Nothing is as it seems in this compelling, haunting and emotionally charged debut. I raced through the pages, not wanting to put the book down until all my questions were answered. 

OMG! What a rollercoaster ride! This complex, multi-layered thriller dripped with suspense and had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Told in dual timelines by two narrators, there’s an atmosphere of foreboding from the start. What did Jack do that ended their marriage and fills Alison with fear? What is it that Alison isn’t remembering? Who is Sarah and what does she want? 

The brilliance of this book is in its iceberg quality - so much is hidden beneath its smooth surface. A masterclass in thriller writing., it is spectacularly written, deftly plotted and full of so many twists and turns it made my head spin. My head was full of theories and questions, which shifted as truths were slowly revealed. And while I did guess some of the twists early on, I also fell for many of the red herrings expertly plotted along the way. Alison and Jack are both complex, captivating but flawed characters. I felt for Alison immediately, her fear and anxiety radiating from the pages. It also made her an unreliable narrator, making the story all the more intriguing and unguessable. 

A merging of psychological thriller, suspense and domestic fiction, All In Her Head is a breathtaking debut from an exciting new talent. There are a lot of great thrillers out at the moment, but this is one you shouldn’t miss.
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Wowzers what a superb debut novel.  This book was amazing and will definitely be in my top reads for 2020.
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A captivating story and a marvellous début psychological thriller!

Nikki Smith has delighted me with this clever and gripping thriller. I was not prepared for the exciting and intense experience this book unleashed on me, nor was I in the least disappointed with this superb twisty story.

Alison Reid is suffering from a terrible trauma that happened years ago and symptoms of amnesia still remain with her. Paranoid and absolutely convinced that she has several stalkers, people have told her that her mind is playing tricks on her. But is it?

All in Her Head is a brilliantly involving and clever novel, that messes with the reader's perception of the narrative very early on in the story. This ingeniously crafty approach had the effect that I was thrown off course straight away, so was pulled in different directions as I tried to figure out exactly what was taking place. Extremely compulsive from the start, Nikki Smith writes with flair and originality, keeping me on tenterhooks throughout. I was never sure whether or not I liked Alison but I think this was a most likely a deliberate ploy. There was something amiss about her and likewise, her ex-husband Jack and they both had their own agendas.

The author’s talent made All in Her Head a wonderfully electrifying story that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated for the entertainment it was. The ending was something of a surprise to me as I did not anticipate the conclusion. This is a little gem and a book that I'm so pleased to have read!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request from Orion via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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All in Her Head is Nikki Smith’s debut psychological thriller and is one of my favourite debuts of the year so far as it explores perception, mental illness and many other interesting and intertwining topics. It also packs a real emotional punch. It follows Alison who is struggling due to trauma suffered in her past but seems to be suffering from amnesia so she can't quite remember all of the details of what actually happened to her. She's paranoid and feels she's been stalked by various people and most people tell her it's all in her mind but is it, or does she have more reason to fear than most?

This is a startlingly original thriller and Ms Smith writes about the human psyche and mental illness with a depth and complexity I rarely see in these types of books. It's wickedly clever and completely compulsive from start to finish and has you going over and over in your mind about what is really going on yet when things start to unravel you realise you couldn't have been further from the truth. A cracker of a read and a page-turner that thoroughly delivers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Orion for an ARC.
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Still shivering from that subtle, chilling last line. Very clever.

The book as a whole is similarly clever, although if you read a lot in this genre (as I do) and know what to look for, the misdirection is obvious. I enjoyed Part 1 the most; it was clear that not all was as it seemed, and that kept me reading. Some of the truth was very obvious to me, but I still wanted to find out the exact details. After that, although interesting, the rest of the book didn't hold any significant twists for me, and I found the funeral fakeout in particular a step too far (cheap and obvious).

Nevertheless, this is a well written book from an author I'd read again, and I cared about the characters enough to wish that that chilling last line didn't exist.
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"All In Her Head" is a brilliant debut novel by Nikki Smith. Utterly absorbing, with twists and turns that will keep you gripped until the very last page. Can't wait for her next book!
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Brilliant. Intriguing and thought provoking story which kept me reading into the night. I was hooked from the start and had no idea how the story was going to end. This is a memorable read.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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All in her Head by Nikki Smith is an intricately layered novel, and it is a masterclass in plotting and suspense. It is also so, so addictive. When I first started reading it, I had absolutely no idea that it would lead in the direction that it did. I was drawn right into the mind of her lead character, Allison. I wanted to know what was really going on in her world. What was it that was making her feel so afraid? From the opening pages, you know you are going to be in for a tense ride. 

When we first meet Allison she is working in a library, but all the time she is feeling anxious and afraid. We know that something has happened in her past to make her like this. Allison, however, struggles to remember the details. And the book only gets tenser when letters start turning up from someone who Allison never hoped to hear from again, and it is someone who she is terrified of. What did happen in her past? I knew I had to find out. 

Allison intrigued me right from the start, and this book was really chilling. I thought this particularly when Allison sensed that a ghost from her past was coming back to haunt her. I could see how stressed this was making her, and this comes through very strongly in Nikki’s writing. You get the sense that the walls are closing in on Allison, and that very soon a terrible truth is going to emerge. You can also sense that she is in a very vulnerable position. It seems that anything might bring her world crumbling down. And when the plot started to unravel, the truths came thick and fast, blowing away every perception that I first had when I first started reading. Once the reveals started coming, I did not want to put it down as I had to know how everything was going to pan out. I can remember how tense I felt as Nikki pulled everything together, and the scenes were so crisp and clear in my mind. 

I’m certain that this book is going to be in my top ten reads at the end of the year, and I can’t wait to see what Nikki Smith brings us next. All in her Head is filled with suspense. I highly recommend it.
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A psychological thriller from the start.  Twists and turns and slowly reveals the answers.  The characters are complex, believable and compelling.  Do think it should state a warning for those who may have suffered similar trauma.
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A pacy, emotive psychological thriller, this debut from Nikki Smith was not what I expected. Beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking at times, this is definitely one for fans of A Good Enough Mother and Little Darlings. I definitely look forward to more by this author.
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This is a clever and addictive debut that turns itself on its head and keeps you guessing right up to the last line. I flew through it in a desperate bid to know how it would all turn out. I can see this working on screen too. Really gripping.
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I finished this in a heartbreaking rush this morning. An incredibly moving story of new motherhood and mental illness, beautifully written. My heart was in my mouth. I can't say much more because of spoilers but it's a genuinely thought-provoking read and I recommend it to all who want something a bit 'deeper' than the standard psychological thriller.
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Alison works in the relative peace and quiet of a library located in a very busy building. The canteen is always busy but she has found a regular isolated table and she enjoys the solitude of her small flat where she can relax each evening, but then things begin to change. 

Her lunches are interrupted by a woman she's sure she knows but can't remember from where and things from her past appear in her flat which she knows weren't there before. Is her carefully constructed life crumbling away or even worse, is she in danger from someone? She's sure she's seen her husband Jack as well but he's violent, maybe that's what's scared her?

This is an amazingly powerful story for a first book and leaves the reader in no doubt about how troubled both Alison and Jack are in their own different ways. The publicity surrounding post-partum psychosis seems to have been swallowed up by other equally significant problems which are reported in our social media led lifestyles but it is front and centre in this frankly terrifying tale. 

The way other family members are, at the same time, both drawn in and shut out by the illness is shown in stark detail and the helplessness felt by everyone shows there is no easy way to do what is right. Whilst I thankfully have no direct or indirect experience of this, it seemed to me that there was a realism which showed an understanding of what is obviously a dangerous condition which without treatment can lead to tragedies felt by generations through decades of hurt.

My heart was in my mouth a few times and I read this in two sittings, there was no way it was going to be three! I needed to know what happened and why. I hope the understanding of post-partum psychosis I feel I've gained by reading this is accurate, and that I never have to experience it in those I love, it definitely shook me to read Alison's story. 

I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys family based psychological thrillers from a slightly different perspective, as this is definitely worth a read.
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A very well written and frightening book. I felt I couldn’t breath the whole way through. Fantastic and creepy and a little bit of crazy x
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This is a brilliant story, well written and captivating. It had me engaged all the time. Quite a dark story but a real page turner. Well deserves the 5 stars. 

Highly recommended to all, you will not be disappointed! 

Thank you Orion Publishing and NetGalley.
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All in her Head by Nikki Smith is a cleverly written and thought-provoking debut novel by the author. It’s one of the books that you think you know what’s going to happen and then BAM it’s completely changes direction and it ends with a different conclusion.  This book had an intriguing and original storyline and great characters and the author, and I thought that she highlighted the subject of Post-Partum Psychosis very well.
Thank you NetGalley and Orion Books for  copy of this book
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Good story on post partum psychosis 
Very difficult to guess the ending unless u seen or read a certain novel which has a similar concept which I had but didn’t ruin the enjoyment and spoil the intrigue as can get a lot from it even if u know the situation 
Heart breaking condition affecting everyone around them and my heart when out to our female lead 
Ty netgalley and publishers for this  advanced copy 
I would read another of this authors as this is clever
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