Review – The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland

By | August 22, 2015

My daughter is a liar. A liar, liar, liar. And I’m starting to see where she gets it from.

When Rosalind’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.

Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He’s going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days’ time.

As Temperley’s release creeps ever closer, Ros is forced to confront the events that led them here, back to a place she thought she’d left behind, to questions she didn’t want to answer. Why did she do it? Where does the blame lie? What happens next?

It’s really difficult to stand out as new and different in the crowded thriller market, but here’s a debut novel that has most certainly succeeded. The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland was published in hardback and for kindle on 13th August by Orion, and when it’s published in paperback in March 2016 deserves to be a massive bestseller. In fact, if I knew Richard and Judy personally, I’d be on the phone to them right now, making sure they reserve a place for it in their Spring list.

I’ll admit to some thriller reading fatigue at the moment, and I really couldn’t take another book about a missing child. This book is so very different, because the missing child scenario has been over and done with for some time – the teacher she ran away with was imprisoned, and life has gone on for everyone involved. I say “gone on” rather than “moved on” quite deliberately. The trauma has affected everyone, fracturing the marriage, the family, Rosalind’s fragile mental state – and things get worse with the news of the teacher’s impending release from prison. The structure of this novel is so very clever – it charts the day by day countdown in the present day, with the story of Stephanie’s disappearance slowly revealed in between. It works so well as a thriller – yes, I’m going to use that word “unputdownable” again, because this was a book that had me reading bleary-eyed into the early hours, wondering what Nathan’s release would bring. 

But it’s so much more than a thriller – it’s quite mesmerising in the way it shines an unforgiving spotlight on Ros and her family, exposing every crack and fissure. Ros was totally mesmerising, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her – I loved her extreme reactions to everything that happens, her expectation of catastrophe at every turn, her joy, misery and fear. Making her the narrator was an absolute masterstroke – you share her thoughts, see her mind working, feel able to laugh with her at her extremes, shed a tear with her over the twists and turns of her marriage, and as she papers over the tears in her relationship with her daughter. There are times you could shake her, when you can see problems coming that she fails to see – and you also wonder whether there are things she just might not be sharing. 

This is quite wonderful writing, with absolutely nothing of “first novel” about it. And the book’s end and climax, when it finally comes (and it’ll probably be in the early hours for you too…), is everything you want it to be – thoroughly brilliant. Well done Eva Holland – I think you have a big hit on your hands, and I’m just desperate to see what you come up with next…    

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Orion for my advance reading e-copy.

A lifelong lover of words and stories, Eva Holland was the winner of the 2014 Good Housekeeping novel writing competition. She grew up in Gloucestershire and studied in Leeds before moving to London. When not writing or reading fiction she works as a freelance PR consultant and copywriter. The Daughter’s Secret is Eva’s first novel. Eva has her own website, and you can also find her on Twitter.