Mr. Nobody Thrills from Start to Finish

Catherine Steadman’s amnesia-based mystery is quick-paced and unforgettable 


Press Release

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman packs a punch for readers: Ballentine Books, hardback, 344 pages.

Taylor Dunlap, Staff Writer

Steadman came out with her first book Something in the Water in 2018, and it quickly became one of the hottest reads in the mystery genre. Her sophomore effort Mr. Nobody is a successful follow-up, a psychological thriller that doesn’t disappoint. Mr. Nobody uses suspense and drama to draw the reader in but has a slow-burn mystery that keeps the reader intrigued until its satisfying end.

Mr. Nobody opens with a man awakening on the beach, wounded, with no recollection of who he is or how he ended up there. Memory loss expert Emma Lewis is chosen to work on the case and determine a diagnosis for the titular man with no identity. Due to the rarity of the case, it’s a huge opportunity for her career, but it requires her to return to her hometown—a hometown she and her family left behind fourteen years prior due to an accident that ruined their lives. “This perfect offer out of the blue, this opportunity, the chance I’ve been waiting for,” Emma laments in the first few pages. “But I’d have to go there. I’ve spent fourteen years of my life trying to get away from that place, what happened there, and now … now I find out that the only way forward, the only way out, is back.” She takes the case and we follow her struggles to identify if her patient (who they call end up calling Matthew) has retrograde amnesia, fugue, or is simply lying. The book quickly becomes about Emma finding a balance between trying to conceal her past while uncovering Matthew’s.

One of Steadman’s talents as a writer is creating rich and interesting supporting characters. These include are Dr. Groves, who is Emma’s inspiration in the psychiatry field and the one who assigned her to this specific case; Chris Poole, a police officer and an old friend she grew up with; Zara Poole, Chris’s, journalist wife; and Rhoda, a nurse that works at the hospital that becomes attached to Matthew. While these characters don’t have as much spotlight as Dr. Lewis and her patient Matthew (much of the book is just the two of them), they were all very well developed despite being in the shadows of the story. Every character is distinct and played their role perfectly.

This is not to say that Steadman doesn’t try new things with her second novel. The chapters shift between the perspectives of the Matthew (whose parts are written in third person) and Dr. Lewis. Mixed into this are first person flashbacks, so it’s necessary to keep up and pay close attention while reading. I admire how the story of Emma’s childhood unfolds throughout the whole story rather than all at once—it leads to a better mystery overall. Not only is Steadman’s writing style unique, she also slyly defines medical terms that some people may not be familiar with through context, which ended up being really helpful as a reader. Besides medical terms, there was a good amount of advanced vocabulary but nothing too hard for the average reader. Steadman does exceedingly well explaining what everything looks like in her scenes and relating how the characters were feeling at any given moment. For example, the gut-wrenching feeling Emma experiences when driving to her old family home is palpable, and it’s easy to pick on how here terrible memories scar her in the present.

I not only enjoyed her style of writing but the message at the end. We learn through Emma’s trauma that to help others, one needs to help themselves first. Emma’s past impacts every single event in the story: for example, she almost rejects the case because she didn’t want to go back. It doesn’t make anything easier–in fact, it made everything harder. However, as a reader, I noticed once she faced her past, she was able to help others as well as herself more: “I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”

Mr. Nobody is a wonderful read. The beginning caught my attention and the author had the ability to keep my attention until the end. While reading, it was fun to try to predict what’s going to happen, but I ended up being surprised every time. The ending can make or break a book, and this one shocks and satisfies at the end. Overall, I’d say if you want a book that has elements of suspense and mystery, with various twists and turns throughout, I would definitely recommend picking up Mr. Nobody. It intrigued me from the start, and I didn’t want to put it down. Steadman’s unique writing style combined with the fascinating premise really made for the extraordinary book. Mr. Nobody is a great read and definitely landed a spot in my top five favorite books.