I always knew something cataclysmic would happen one day. I always knew that I was too busy to take notice, too busy to make sure. I always knew it would be me, the woman who spreads herself too thinly, who comes crashing down.
But I never imagined this.
I never imagined I’d be the woman responsible for the disappearance of her friend’s child.
Every now and then, you come across a thriller by a new writer and just know you’ve found something very special. That’s how it was for me with Elizabeth Haynes’ Into The Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Forbes’ Nearest Thing To Crazy and MJ Arlidge’s Eeny Meeny. And now I’ve found another – Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly was one of those wonderful reads that are just impossible to put down for the feverish turning of the pages and with an ending that totally takes your breath away. There’s not just one twist in the tail, there’s a whole tangle of them, and the various threads are handled with the deftest of touches.
The strength at the core of this book is in the drawing of its two main female characters. Lisa Kallisto is married to taxi driver Joe, and leads a busy life caring for her three children and running an animal shelter – the pace of her life will be familiar to many, the stolen half hour before the children wake up her only chance to breathe. Guilt overcomes her when her friend’s child goes missing when others assume the child is with her, but her guilt runs a lot deeper than that – her friend Kate is affluent, accomplished and one of those sickening mothers without whom school fundraising would collapse. There’s an excruciating evening, beautifully described, where Lisa and Jo dress up for a meal at Kate’s house where another incident happens that adds to her feelings of inadequacy and guilt. The writing puts you firmly in Lisa’s corner – these are people you know, drawn with all their flaws and shortcomings, and you love them all the more for it.
The other main character is DC Joanne Aspinall – I really hope the author will revisit her, because she’s quite wonderful. Wrapped up in her shapeless parka to hide her unusual assets, we see her efficiency and professionalism at work set against her less than conventional home life, her horrified adding up of the units of alcohol she consumes with her aunt Mad Jackie in the evenings, her humming of Gary Glitter tunes while browsing the sex offenders’ register, her reactions to revelations that are so uniquely her rather than the expected responses of a police officer. And through it all, we tantalisingly share the thoughts of the person who is abducting the children.
When I initially saw that this book was about missing children, I’ll admit that my heart sank a little – it does seem to have been something of a theme in a number of recent reads. But I was so wrong – this book is really different, a slice of real life with endearing characters, but with a building tension throughout that absolutely grips you through to the explosive and unexpected conclusion. I loved the setting for its familiarity – Lisa lives at Troutbeck in the Lakes, an area I know well, and there’s something somehow more disturbing in seeing a thriller play out against a setting you recognise. There’s an icy chill that runs through it all too – extreme winter weather that stops people moving around and has people struggling to stand up and sliding across car parks. And as for Bluey – oh, you need to read it! Excellent stuff…
Winners now drawn for my two copies – new copy going to Marie Monaghan, pre-loved to Marie Judd who contacted me via Facebook. I’ll send you both messages via Facebook/Twitter, and get both copies into the post early next week. Thank you for entering, and congratulations!
My thanks to Alison at Transworld for the opportunity to read this one. Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? is already available for Kindle readers and in hardback – the paperback will be published by Corgi Books on 13th March.
Paula Daly lives in Cumbria with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy. She is a freelance physiotherapist and lived for a short while in France, but returned to the UK after missing the hustle and bustle. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is her first novel. Her second Keep Your Friends Close is also due for publication on 13thMarch – there are some tantalising opening chapters at the end of my paperback, and I can’t wait.