Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mistake – Wendy James

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

The wonderful Margot Kinberg from Confessions of a Mystery Novelist introduced me to this writer and after reading the exceptional tale of Maggie, at the turn of the twentieth century, in Out of the Silence, I was eager to read a contemporary tale by the same author. If you haven’t come across Margot’s blog before, you really should pay her a visit.

Jodie Garrow is the wife of a successful lawyer Angus and she looks and plays the part; she is immaculate and in control of life, which includes her sixteen year old daughter Hannah and her younger son Tom. The couples are well-regarded in the Australian town of Arding, so much so that she has appeared on his arm in pictures in the local paper, supporting some charity or attending some event. But Jodie has a secret, one that is twenty-four years old, and as we all know a secret kept that long, if unearthed, is likely to detonate in a huge eruption. And so it is. In a set of coincidences which reveals that perhaps Hannah isn’t quite the daughter Jodie has pictured, the pair end up in a small hospital and Jodie is recognised.

When Jodie breaks the news to Angus that she procured a private adoption all those years ago his focus is on the legalities followed by a public relations exercise to keep their reputation intact. There is one problem, although the media initially print an appeal for the missing Ella Mary Jodie’s composure along with her current lifestyle means that it doesn’t take long before accusations fly and not just in the media, on the internet and in her home town too.

The reader hears the story from three separate viewpoints; Hannah’s who is fearful of being ostracised by her peers, Angus who is somewhat confused about why Jodie hadn’t told him about the child before now, and Jodie’s tale which stretches back to the 1980s, and of course the newspaper extracts which could be applied to many tales of ‘missing children’ in newspaper’s around the world over the years. The book challenges the assumption of those who watch these types of appeal that if you are not a certain type of person, you don’t dress in a certain way and most importantly you don’t act as those who are watching you imagine they would, there is something dodgy about your story. Of course none of us knows how we may act if we were caught up in a similar drama, I suspect it often isn’t how we imagine it will be. Is this Jodie’s fault?

A fascinating book and one that really did make me think because there is plenty to absorb in the plot but The Mistake is populated by interesting, if not particularly likable, characters. Angus is particularly interesting as Jodie’s revelation causes him to act in a way that perfectly reveals what he thinks is important in his life. Meanwhile Jodie responds by firmly sticking her head into the sand and shutting herself away we are also invited to examine the different standards that males and females judge each other and what is a deal-breaker in a friendship.

Wendy James has presented us with a perplexing mystery but one that asks us to reflect on our own idea about those in caring professions such as the midwife, now dead, who arranged the private adoption, the role of a mother, even one whose pregnancy was unwanted and maybe even adoption itself. For those who are interested in the role media has to play in investigations, I highly recommend this book.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

How I Lost You – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

I love a good psychological thrillers and the ones I enjoy the most have characters in a situation which if I’ve not been in, I can easily imagine – How I Lost You is not one of those. The main protagonist is Susan Webster who has spent time in a psychiatric hospital accused of the murder of her son whilst in the grip of post puerperal psychosis. Now by sheer coincidence this is the second book I’ve read this month featuring this condition but I’m glad to say that didn’t really help me to put myself in Susan’s shoes.

Susan leaves hospital knowing no-one except her former roommate, the feisty Cassie, and moves to a small town as Emma Cartwright. She sets up home still not able to remember what happened on the night Dylan, her son died, and volunteers at a local shelter alongside Cassie. Unable to disclose her secret she struggles to really connect with anyone she meets. One morning she receives a photo of a young boy that had writing on the back suggesting that Dylan may still be alive and she struggles between fearing she’s losing her mind or that Dylan is really alive. Secondly she has to worry about who knows who she really is? The only people who know the truth is her probation officer and Cassie.

This is a psychological thriller that in order to enjoy it, you have to go with the flow, and after being slightly irritated at the start with the stilted monologues (never a good idea) where she does the endless struggling as mentioned above, as further clues begin to appear I was able to put these aside and enjoy the book for what it was. Whether that was because the experience Susan is so far outside what I know that I was able to accept her decisions without scoffing at the somewhat obvious stupidity at times, or because of the pace of the book, I’m not sure. What I do know was that I had to know what happened, especially as the excerpts written about a group of schoolboys in the early 1990s which didn’t appear to be connected to the story in any way whatsoever but slowly the strands come together.

Once the background has been laid the pace of the book really picks up and following the entrance of the journalist Nick who seems eager to help Susan to find out what really happened to Dylan, and unusually not for the purposes of a great story on a child-killer, there is plenty of action as they visit those characters who attended her trial. What they find is a mystery more complex than they or certainly I, ever imagined.

There is a mixture of characters from the crazy to the downright bad and few who are genuinely nice people but it is precisely this unconventional spread that is necessary for the tale being told and the maintenance of the tension because you simply don’t know what dramatic event will be around the corner.

A must-read for lovers of psychological thrillers who are in the mood to enjoy a well-told tale and take it at face value.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publishers Headline who gave me a copy of this book for review purposes. How I Lost You will be published on 23 April 2015.