Review: Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman

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Ballantine Books | 2020

Filed Under: Amnesiac beach bum

This is such a bummer for me. I really loved Steadman’s debut novel, Something in the Water (though I’m chalking up about 33% of that to the audiobook narration, which was fucking stellar,) so I was eager to get my hands on her follow-up, Mr. Nobody.

But… *fart noises*

This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed by a sophomore novel and it won’t be the last, but it’s still a bummer.

Mr. Nobody is the most vanilla – and slightly annoying – thriller I’ve read this year.

I know I can get a bit spicy like chicken wing sauce when I write negative reviews, but then there are times like these where I’m just bummed out that I didn’t like something.

I’m Eeyore writing this fucking review right now.

Eeyore GIF by memecandy

That might change the further I get into writing this. Sometimes I can work up a bad attitude from nothing. It’s like magic.

Dr. Emma Lewis, a neuropsychiatrist, is brought in to consult on a patient who is experiencing serious amnesia (fucking amnesia plots, ugh.) The man, who doesn’t even know his own name, washed up wounded on a beach in a small town that Emma has a history with. To do her job – to ascertain if Mr. Nobody, called Matthew by hospital staff, is faking or not – Emma must travel back to Norfolk and confront the past she had hoped to forget. And of course, Emma and Matthew start to blur those pesky lines between patient and doctor.

There is something about the tone of the writing that makes this less a thriller and more a contemporary with elements of mystery. It’s pretty flat in terms of excitement – just a flat line on a heart rate monitor. The back-of-the-book blurb is more suspenseful than the actual novel. Which brings up, why are we still trying to force novels into the thriller genre when they clearly don’t belong there? Just stop.

mr. d no GIF by CBC

The opening of this was pretty gripping, but once I got into the real guts of the story I found the pace had slowed to a sedate crawl. Like a turtle on Ambien. Any interest I had in the mystery of “who is Matthew?” and “what is going on with Emma?” was suffocated to fucking death by the plotting and scene structure.

There is an effort to create more sinister questions, to keep that eerie mystery going between the chunks of boringness by giving Emma the air of a sordid past, but it was so vague I just didn’t care. Instead of getting her Sarah McLachlan on and building a mystery around Emma’s secrets, Steadman gives you basically nothing to help you figure shit out. It becomes reminiscent of your annoying friend on Facebook who does shit-posting for attention.

Why would anyone write shit posting into a novel? Seriously. Steadman drags Emma’s mystery out for an inordinate amount of page time, to the point that I was actually kind of annoyed. I mean, you get some answers, but they were answers that raised even more questions. The shit was never-ending.

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Being vague and being mysterious is not the same fucking thing. Put that on my headstone.

The MC, Emma, wasn’t totally likable. She’s puffed up to be a star in her field, a super smarty-pants, but she never really does anything to convince you that’s true. It’s all telling, no showing. And for a grown woman who is apparently a big fucking deal in her chosen career, she spends far too much time thinking about her father, her childhood, a dude she hasn’t seen since her school days and trying to say things that are specifically meant to cement her role as an unreliable narrator. There were moments that did not come off as natural, but gimmicky. I would have preferred a little more focus on the important aspects of the plot that would have facilitated better pacing.

It’s just a personal preference, but I prefer grown-ass female characters who are not still hung up on high school boyfriends. There is something kind of pathetic about i, to me.

I also prefer for male characters to be interesting because they are fleshed out and layered in their creation, not just because they’re handsome and eerie and that’s supposed to be enough.

But the real bummer for this novel is the ending because one: meh, and two: WHAT?! With so much mysterious vagueness created, and so many hints dropped to ensure the reader believes something big is coming, by the time Matthew’s identity is discovered it was anti-climatic and I just didn’t care. As Matthew reveals more about his intentions and real intent with Emma, my not caring turned into hardcore eye-rolling that might have sprained some optic muscles.

Aubrey Plaza Ok GIF by truTV’s The Chris Gethard Show

It was so ludicrous (and I’m not talking about the musical artist/Fast and Furious actor,) that my suspension of disbelief literally snapped and sent me plummeting to an early bookish death.

The writing quality is good – I do like Steadman as an author overall – but the pacing is slow, the characters missed the mark and the ending was too ridiculous to be believed. Mr. Nobody probably should have stayed a mystery to me.


He wants to remember. She needs to forget. . . . Memento meets Sharp Objects in a gripping psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Something in the Water.

Who is Mr. Nobody?

When a man is found on a British beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him, to international medical experts who are baffled by him, to the national press who call him Mr. Nobody, everyone wants answers. Who is this man? And what happened to him?

Some memories are best forgotten.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient in a small town deep in the English countryside. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for, and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same town fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then.

Places aren”t haunted . . . people are.

But now something—or someone—is calling her back. And the more time she spends with her patient, the more alarmed she becomes that he knows the one thing about her that nobody is supposed to know.

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