It's clear from Mr. Nobody that Catherine Steadman understands a lot about neuropsychiatry and neuroscience. Put in TV industry terms: in the role of amateur neuropsychiatrist, Steadman, an English actress best known for her role on television's Downton Abbey, is thoroughly convincing.
A man wakes up on a beach with a head wound, wet clothes, no shoes, and some faded writing on his hand. He hasn't got an ID, which would have been useful: he claims not to know who he is. He says he doesn't remember anything before he was found. Is his memory loss retrograde amnesia, meaning caused by a physical injury, or extremely rare dissociative fugue, meaning the result of a psychological trauma?
Entrusted to work on the "Mr. Nobody" case is Emma Lewis, a 30-year-old London neuropsychiatrist. Emma accepts the potentially career-crowning assignment with some trepidation: since the man was found on Holkham Beach, in Norfolk, where Emma grew up, she must treat him at the local hospital, and she's wary of being recognized. Sure enough, when Mr. Nobody finally speaks, he addresses Emma by her childhood name, which she changed following a media-circus-precipitating family tragedy that took place 14 years earlier.
Steadman is a fine storyteller, as will attest fans of her first thriller, Something in the Water. While Mr. Nobody's main concerns are cerebral, readers who like a good knock-down-drag-out won't be disappointed. Steadman's book just might be literature's first in which a character dukes it out while a folding chair is tied to her ankle. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer