The Spider in the Corner of the Room is an odd book. The basic plot is a Spanish female doctor, a plastic surgeon specialising in burns and reconstructive surgery and who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, wakes up in prison having been convicted of a murder she doesn’t recollect. So far so simple. But this is no linear novel and as with the Christopher Nolan movie Memento, events and the character’s unreliable recollections are fed to us in snatches. Just as with the Guy Pearce character in that great movie, we accompany our protagonist, Dr Maria Martinez, on her journey to reclaim her memories and thus discover the truth. Did she commit the terrible murder, and if so, why? Has she been framed? Who are the mysterious people in her past – the priest, the university lecturer – who appear to have honed her skills at problem solving? What did her beloved father know, and was he murdered because of this knowledge?
It’s a good premise and the author, Nikki Owen, pulls it all off with some panache. The trouble with such a novel that leaps from narrative place to place, timeframe to timeframe, is that the reader risks becoming confused and worn down by trying to keep up with it all. Throw in a conspiracy involving MI5 and a rogue Security Service sub-section and these risks are multiplied. I’m pleased to say that on the whole the author avoids these pitfalls and I remained gripped throughout. Dr Martinez’s Asperger’s is deftly handled as is her feelings of alienation as a foreigner in a British jail. There were a few times when I felt that the plot stretched credulity a little, especially when the author starts to explain the whole conspiracy aspect. But on the whole I thought this a thoroughly good read and such quibbles did little to spoil it for me.
I would give this 5 out of 5 stars