Friday Reads – I’ll Never Tell by Philippa East

A warm welcome back to Philippa East, author of the gripping thriller I’ll Never Tell. Philippa has dropped by today to tell us a bit about her book and why she became a writer. So grab a cuppa, get comfy and let’s get chatting to Philippa.


To the outside world, the Goodlights are perfect.

Julia is a lawyer, Paul a stay-at-home dad who has dedicated his life to helping their daughter Chrissie achieve her dreams as a talented violinist.

But on the night of a prestigious music competition, which has the power to change everything for Chrissie and her family, Chrissie goes missing.

She puts on the performance of a lifetime, then completely disappears. Suddenly every single crack, every single secret that the family is hiding risks being exposed.

Because the Goodlights aren’t perfect. Not even close.

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Now over to Philippa.

I never set out to become a writer. At university I studied Psychology not English; I later trained as a Clinical Psychologist not an author. Looking back now, though, I believe my passion for writing and for my ‘day job’ are inextricably linked. I’m also struck by the fact that I specifically chose to become a clinical psychologist, and to specifically write in the psychological thriller genre.

Clinical psychologists work in the field of mental health: we study, research and treat psychological distress and disorders. We aim to heal the mind when it hurts.

In psychological thrillers, our characters are plagued by what lives in the shadows: secrets, guilt, trauma, threats. In my books, my characters must confront and overcome these buried secrets, in order to achieve the resolution they need.

I’m struck time and again by how this mirrors the trajectory a client must travel in therapy. For ethical reasons I never use specific client narratives or experiences in my writing, but there are patterns and themes that reoccur and which I am deeply drawn to explore further in my books.

For my debut Little White Lies I drew on my work with adult survivors of complex trauma; Safe and Sound was informed by my knowledge of anxiety disorders. My newest book, I’ll Never Tell, is no different.

I’ll Never Tell focuses on the psychology of ‘family’, and in particular the patterns and wounds inherited by one generation from the last (a phenomenon known as intergenerational trauma). Such legacies frequently show up in my client’s narratives; often it’s at the heart of what brought them to treatment. And yet… 

It may sound paradoxical, but for me the ‘healthiest’ individual in a dysfunctional family is so often the ‘patient’ sitting across from me in my clinic room. Why? Because the ‘patient’ who pitches up in therapy is the person who recognises and is willing to address the problematic patterns that have resonated for decades throughout their family tree. They are bold, brave and wise enough to step up and fight to ‘stop the rot’.

This seeming paradox is a key theme I explore in I’ll Never Tell. From the outside, the Goodlight family are perfect; there’s absolutely no reason for teenager Chrissie to go AWOL, not least since, as an aspiring violinist, she is tipped to win a national competition and has just given the performance of a lifetime. As her parents Paul and Julia race to untangle the disturbing clues as to her whereabouts, every aspect of their lives falls under the spotlight.

So: is this crisis a tragedy or a tipping point? Is Chrissie’s disappearance something to be fixed – or faced?

I hope you’ll enjoy finding out the answers to this question! For me, writing will always be my way of grappling with the issues we all face: what do we most fear? How can we best cope? How do we ultimately triumph in the big old narrative of life?

That’s so interesting, Philippa. Thank you for talking to us today and sharing the reason you write thrillers with us. Wishing you lots of luck with your future writing.

Meet Philippa

Author bio

Philippa East grew up in Scotland and originally studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Oxford. After graduating, she moved to London to train as a Clinical Psychologist and worked in NHS mental health services for over ten years. Philippa now lives in the Lincolnshire countryside with her spouse and cat, and alongside her writing she continues to work as a psychologist and therapist. Her debut novel Little White Lies was longlisted for the Guardian’s “Not-The-Booker” prize and shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. She has since published two further psychological suspense novels, Safe and Sound and I’ll Never Tell, and is currently working on her fourth. 

Author links

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Philippa first appeared on my blog last December. You can read her interview here:

Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
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