Posted in Books I have read

The Perfect Mother – Nina Darnton

Crime Fiction  5*'s
Crime Fiction

The premise to this book had me hooked, Jennifer is the mother to three children the eldest of which is Emma who at twenty is studying in Spain. One night Jennifer takes a phone call that changes her life, Emma is at the Police station, suspect in the murder of a local boy. I love books that let me play the ‘What would I do game’ and this is definitely one of those reads.

This book is as much about Jennifer and her relationships than the murder of Rodrigo Perez which almost becomes the backdrop to the drama being played out in Jennifer’s life as she is faced with the reality that her daughter which is different to that of the pretty, intelligent honour roll girl who goes to Princeton, this is a girl who has been lying to her parents about where she lives and how she spends her days for months.

This book has obviously been based on the killing of Meredith Kercher, an English student studying in Italy whose roommate, American Amanda Knox was suspected of being involved in her murder. That case hit the international news and to this day hasn’t properly been resolved. However, although the headlines to that case have been used by Nina Darnton this is book does not seek to directly copy that murder but rather used it a starting point. What is similar is the reporting by the media in the country of the murder using the fact that Emma was an American and allegedly brash and promiscuous in their news while back in America Jennifer enlists the help of a friend to brief a PR company to emphasise that Emma was the perfect daughter and her supposed involvement is all a horrible mistake. The other similarity is the way both Italy and Spain come up with a narrative that includes motive to build their prosecution case and it is up to the defence to disprove this. All of this makes for a fascinating read.

There are some good supporting characters to this story including Emma’s father Mark who is a US Attorney along with the local defence lawyer Jose and his support assistance Roberto. Jose and Roberto are Jennifer’s main support in the early days of the investigation while Mark remains in the US appearing in court and assisting Jennifer’s parents in looking after Emma’s younger siblings. Any parent will recognise albeit in an extreme form the prioritisation of everyday life and multiple children who need you.

I really enjoyed this book on many different levels and although both of the key protagonists are not people that I’d want to spend time with their reactions to the events as they unfold were suitable for the story being told.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Penguin Group Plume for allowing me to read and ponder over this book ahead of publication on 25 November 2014.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

13 thoughts on “The Perfect Mother – Nina Darnton

  1. It sounds as engrossing as you’d hoped it would be, Cleo. Sometimes those ‘from the headlines’ novels don’t work well, either because of too much improbability, or because of sensationalism. It’s good to know that this one didn’t fall into those traps. Thanks as ever for the fine review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah thank you Margot. I liked the fact that although it had been taken from the headlines the sole purpose of the book wasn’t to recreate that case but use it to explore the relationships between mother and daughter using this extraordinary event.


  2. As I’ve mentioned I started it last night, and it was such a page-turner in terms of revelation after revelation about Emma’s life, and opinions, which bit by bit shattered the mother’s perception of her as the “perfect daughter”; her “mini-me”…and that’s before you even get to the crime…I’m also so grateful when reading about these foreign legal systems that I’m British (not that I plan on getting questioned over a murder…but one has to think ahead – who knows what the future holds?!)


    1. Haha – the legal system in these countries is different and of course the narrative way they present the evidence lends itself to story telling. I hope you are as engrossed for the rest of the book. I think this is one that will stay with me even though both mother and daughter aren’t exactly likeable characters.


  3. Great review! Hmm…I really didn’t think this one was for me but now you have me wondering. I don’t generally like novels based on real-life events, but I like how you say that she’s only used that as a starting point…


  4. This sounds like something I would really enjoy–I kept up with the Knox case somewhat and think it would be interesting to compare and contrast what parts were used as an influence in this book. I’ll be on the lookout for it here in the US!

    Liked by 1 person

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