Bronte is just ten years old but she has a punishing schedule of piano classes, harp lessons and because her mother Karen Bloom is worried about the way she reads aloud, she also needs to fit in some drama classes to help that out. Of course she also has extra homework to ensure that she excels in every subject, but things in the Bloom household hide more than the obvious maternal pushing of Karen.
Noel Bloom is a doctor who seems to also be keen on alcohol, or maybe this is a mask for avoiding his home life aka known as Karen. Noel had left his first wife Jennifer when Karen became pregnant with Bronte. Jennifer now lives in a nursing home due to her MS which means that Noel’s first daughter Verity, now a feisty teenager lives with him too. Oh and there is Karen’s son from a previous relationship, a relationship she doesn’t want to discuss. Ewan now in his late teens is something of a disappointment to Karen and she is determined that Bronte will be far more successful.
So far so good, we have all met a Karen, a woman who imagines that the other mothers are lazy and misguided, a woman the is focussed on getting the best for her daughter no matter the cost. Then something happens which turns everything on its head and life for the Bloom family will never be the same again!
Paula Daly is at her best when she is creating characters we love to hate. She has made Karen a figure that can’t be pitied, so what emotions are left? She is also far better than many writers at creating convincing characters of the children. Although for a good part of the book Ewan was only partially visible, he too comes into his own later on, with a convincing performance that works to round the stereotypical view painted by his mother of a no-hoper.
As the plot begins to unfold the cracks in the family really begin to show and with each member taking a stance, I wouldn’t want to have lived there as they circled and protected in equal measure. Because underneath the plotline this is a story about relationships too. Modern blended families provide a wealth of complex bonds, that between Verity and Bronte being my favourite of the entire book. Two sisters who have had very different upbringings, have different aptitudes and different mothers are nonetheless siblings.
But best of all this book features the return of DS Joanne Aspinall, one of my favourite characters who first appeared in Just What Kind of Mother Are You? And she has a much larger part to play this time. She is running an investigation that involves the entire Bloom family, and she will get her answers. She also provides much of the witticisms that appear in The Trophy Child which despite the seriousness of the subject, gives the book a real jaunty feeling at times.
All in all a totally compelling read which had me engrossed, madly guessing the outcome from the very first page, all whilst giving me the impression that I was part of the investigation, if only I could sort out those red herrings from the clues that gave the answers. How did I do? Pretty badly, as usual although I had one strand cracked early on, Paula Daly was just far too wily for this amateur detective.
I would like to thank the publishers Grove Atlantic for giving me a copy of The Trophy Child. This review is my thank you to them and the incredibly talented Paula Daly.
Previous Books by Paula Daly