Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

I don’t often read thriller novels; mainly, I get around to them thanks to book club picks. I also emphasized in my review of The Woman in Cabin 10 that thrillers, for me, are best consumed as audio books. A line like “Oh, my god” can read so flatly on the page when a narrator can read it with shudders in her breath to suggest the terror in her heart. When I discovered Behind Her Eyes, I wasn’t even looking for a book. That Scottish powerhouse, Irvine Welsh, whom I follow on Twitter, Tweeted that everyone should read Sarah Pinborough. I asked him which books I should read, as I’d never heard of her, and, in true Welsh fashion, he bombarded me with Tweets containing the titles of his own books. Salty, that one. I did get Behind Her Eyes from the library, and I did choose the audio version. The novel proved to be dramatic, compelling, and unique.

Screenshot 2017-05-20 at 10.03.16 PM.png
Tweet by Irvine Welsh, February 17, 2017.

Though there are less than a dozen characters in the whole novel, the focus is on three people. The novel begins with Louise, a single mom who laughed and had a good time with a man she met in a bar the night before. They kiss before the man says he can’t “do this.”

That man is David, and Louise learns the next day that he’s her new boss just arrived from Scotland — with his wife.

David’s wife is Adele. She maintains her fitness, cooks gourmet meals, and cleans her whole lovely house out of pride. She’s easy to like at first, and I felt bad for her. It sounds like David is abusing her by keeping credit cards and cell phones from her, and she doesn’t have a job. The signs of abuse cement Louise’s determination to befriend and “save” Adele — while she’s moved on to sleeping with David.

Later in the novel (I’m not sure how far in, as I was listening to the audio version), we get sections entitled “Then.” These are flashbacks to when Adele was in an institution at age 17. She befriends a teenage junkie named Rob, who makes her laugh. Adele is sweet and eager, and we learn she’s known David her whole life. They’re already engaged.

The voice actors really made this novel special. Published by McMillan Audio in 2017, Behind Her Eyes included the following voice actors:

  • Anna Betinck
  • Josie Dunn
  • Bea Holland
  • Huw Parmenter

It’s not common to have so many voice actors in audio books. Usually, one person changes his/her inflections to indicate different people. But I found the various narrators to be wonderful. One woman with a more “scattered” sort of “hot mess” sound to her voice plays single mom Louise. Louise tends to bemoan her bad luck in the beginning, and I felt she sounded strangely like Bridget Jones. As the book progresses, Louise’s voice becomes more assured, even though she still weighs her choices more than most. Of course she is: she loves her friend, she loves her friend’s husband. Who does she love more? This voice actress does a spot on Scottish accent when David speaks in her Louise chapters.

A second voice actor plays Adele, the physically fit, beautiful wife in the carefully-maintained home. She loves her husband, David, more than anything in the world. This voice actress uses a silky smooth tone, like syrup pouring onto pancakes. She is the confidence Louse lacks. Eventually, she sounds like a slinky trouble-maker, and it’s not clear that David really is the abuser I thought​ at first. This voice actress doesn’t capture David’s Scottish accent as well, though David doesn’t talk nearly as much around his wife as he does Louise.

Since Louise’s and Adele’s voices are acted so differently and have different voice actors, it’s easy to follow the chapters, which switch points of view back and forth between these women. Both are in first-person point of view, which made sense for the novel. The publisher made excellent choices for the talent.

The last two voice actors were hard to figure out. The 3rd female voice actor must be the one who reads the flashback chapters to Adele’s time with Rob in the institution. Honestly, her voice wasn’t different enough to me to realize she was a different person. She sounded like she could be the voice actor playing Adele if that actor spoke a bit differently. Yet, these scenes are 3rd-person, not first-person.

The fourth voice credited is a man’s. Where does he fit into this book after it has established the back and forth of two narrators plus flashbacks? It’s almost a spoiler to know a man is coming to tell part of the story!

I always thought thrillers were supposed to proceed at break-neck speed, but Behind Her Eyes remains consistent. We never race ahead; we’re never dragging. There are reliable switches among Louise, Adele, and the flashbacks, separated by chapters, so that we never go too long and forget what’s happening with any one person or scene.

The plot was the best part because there wasn’t one big twist that I tried to guess the whole book. And the problem with one twist: if the reader figures it out early in the novel. No, author Sarah Pinborough drops some clues, I realized what she was laying down, the moment was revealed — and that in itself is ridiculously exciting — and then new clues were given to build up to a new thing to realize.  I thought a lot about it, and the best metaphor I can use is multiple orgasms. There, I said it.

Let me put it this way: three days ago I couldn’t stop listening to Behind Her Eyes, but I felt guilty for sitting down for so long. So, I walked around the campus of the University of Notre Dame (in 80 degree weather). About three hours later, sweaty, dehydrated, sunburned, legs shaking, I collapsed back into my car and cranked on the A/C.

Go get yourself the audio book of Behind Her Eyes.

behind her eyes

*Margot over at Lectito also reviewed Behind Her Eyes. You can check out her review in which she makes some comparisons to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.


  1. yay! a thriller. I haven’t read this book or any other by Sarah but now I am definitely curious. Multiple orgasms is a nice way to describe the twists. Great review:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I think there was one big twist haha And I didn’t like it that much. It was a super addictive book, that’s for sure, but I didn’t like the change of genre…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I think the very, VERY ending is a big twist, but along the way so these small things are revealed. Both Louise’s and Adele’s time change subtly throughout, and I liked that. I can see why the ending made some people angry, but it’s literally the last few pages. In terms of changing genres, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I have read on Goodreads that some people felt it added a bit of fantasy. Fantasy isn’t the correct term based on the tropes and themes of the genre. Magical realism is a better fit, because everything continues as normal, except a few things here and there (never happening consistently).


  3. I love that Audible are doing more of these multiple narrator books these days – also more original acted adaptations. I find it makes a huge difference. I recently read The Tsar of Love and Techno, which had three narrators, and seriously felt the audio experience was better than the written version could possibly have been. Glad you enjoyed this one so much. I’m kinda ‘off’ these psychological thrillers at the moment, but maybe I should try listening rather than reading…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really never do thrillers except book club, but this one was an exception. I don’t think I have the personality for reading thrillers constantly. They’re designed to be addictive, they don’t always end in a way that makes you feel okay, and it’s possible to love a whole book and be completely pissed at the ending.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m always up for something new so I’ll see if my library has this as an audio book. Not sure about multiple readers. Even when it’s not intrusive I generally find it unnecessary. It’s part of the suspending of disbelief to go along with readers voicing the opposite gender (or children) and I think you quickly adapt to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have read a lot of books with I’ve voice actor, and I agree, they can and should do different voices. I think for this book, having Louise and Adele don’t by two different voice actors was smart because each character​has a lot to say.


  5. You win! I have never really taken to thrillers, honestly. But I love audiobooks. I’ve never listened to an audiobook with a “cast”, so this will be a new experience. Plus, you really sold this tale. Even your review is suspenseful!

    I love your multiple orgasms line– I’ll have to find out if I agree. Are you one who figured out the single twist early on? I find that if there is only one twist I often figure it out then second-guess myself repeatedly until I come up with something ridiculous which never could happen. To each their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I guess you could say there is one big twist at the end, though I don’t know how anyone could guess it. Once we’re told, it makes sense, but the pieces aren’t really there to be picked up. However, every chapter has a small something for you to figure out, so you guess and then either get it or don’t (I got it each time, but you’re only waiting to the end of the chapter to be satisfied, thus the multiple orgasms reference–you’ll be satisfied many times).


  6. I don’t typically pick up thrillers, but I love the way you put it that narrators can truly bring a thriller to life. And multiple narrators! I’ve only listened to one audio book, but I like the idea of different voice actors for each character. Of course, I imagine this only works well when the cast is rather small and it’s easy to distinguish between narrators. Exactly what you have here. Enjoyed your review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Alicia! Yes, the two main voices are very different (both the actors and the characters’ personalities). Plus, the chapters switch back and forth between the two characters, so having one voice actor read one part and alter her voice for the other would be awkward for a whole novel. I don’t typically read thrillers either, so maybe check this one out! For some reason, I can read a book and listen to an audio book at other times and keep them separate, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t read a lot of thrillers, either, but I’m always happy to have recommendations for them for when I’m in the mood for one. I’ve never considered listening to one on audio – but that’s probably because I don’t listen to anything on audio. I can see why it might be more thrilling. I love the image of you circling your campus, sweaty and sunburned, while listening to your book. (I hope you’re okay, though!) I have always thought that if I need to walk more than I already do, listening to a book would probably do the trick!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Audio books do get me moving more! Lol! I am okay now, Naomi. That night I also played Cornhole and the next day I went to a Cubs game (up and down steep stadium steps), so my legs were done with me for about three days.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You do a great job of reviewing this audio book – very detailed! I listen to audio books only in my car (On CD from my library,) and because I’m driving, I don’t take notes or anything, so I don’t review them. I might mention them in a post if I really liked them, but I don’t write a full post. I could do the audio book thing on my phone, but I’m so addicted to podcasts that I don’t have time for them! 🙂 But perhaps my tastes will change and I’ll get burned out on podcasts. Anything is possible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not having notes or quotes is a big issue. I’ve found that I try to stick to more basic criteria in my review, such as the voice acting, overall plot, and my level of desire to keep listening. I think that’s basically what I’ve done with ALL of my audio book reviews (though there haven’t been many). Give it a try; I’d love to read such a review from you! If you want feedback, let me know. This summer I plan on listening to a series of sexy vampire audio books. Does this sound like me? Not really. However, I read the first book in the series when I was in college and just felt giddy the whole time. The book is called A Girls’ Guide to Vampire (note: this is all pre-Twilight, so no sparkles, no mooning love triangles). All of the books in the series can be read as stand-alone novels. They’re simply connected by the theme. And all of them are audio books! Squee! I’m good at listening to audio books AND having a paperback on the side. My brain doesn’t mix them up.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I so agree that thrillers are best experienced in audiobook form! That is of course as long as it is well narrated… This is my preferred method to read thrillers.

    “The signs of abuse cement Louise’s determination to befriend and “save” Adele — while she’s moved on to sleeping with David.”

    Seems like a legit response when you suspect a man is abusing his wife… let’s sleep with him! ::rolls eyes::


  10. I’m so glad you enjoyed Behind Her Eyes as well! It’s been one of my favourite thrillers in a good long while, mainly for the reasons you said: the pacing is on point, Pinborough makes good use of foreshadowing and the story doesn’t hang on a single twist. The audio version sounds really cool with the different voice actors reading the different perspectives!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I know you’re a big fan! I’m trying to get better at listening to them (and not letting my mind wander). I’m planning to stock up for when I’m feeding the bubs so that I can keep reading when she arrives!

        Liked by 1 person

        • You already know it’s a girl? Wow! I thought you were still super early in the pregnancy. Congratulations! Please give her an awesome name like Flannery O’Northanger Abby McGovern. 😀

          Okay, for audio books, as I mentioned on Twitter, I would definitely go for A Girl’s Guide to Vampires. The voice actress is a voice wizard! It’s a bit more like listening to a play because the voices are all different.


  11. Thanks for recommending this audiobook to me! I requested a copy from my library and only had to wait about a week for another local library to send it over. Since it’s on CD instead of through an app on my phone, I’ll only be able to listen during my commute but so far am loving it!


  12. […] Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough — A thriller that credits four voice actors, all of whom narrate clearly. Half the fun is figuring out what the title refers to. When you learn about half way through, you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what bad things will befall the characters. Thriller, exciting, can’t stop listening. […]


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