Review – The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

By | September 3, 2015

We all think we know who we are. What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make.

I was so looking forward to reading this one. I absolutely loved the first two books from Paula Daly, Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? (review here) and Keep Your Friends Close (review here). The Mistake I Made was published in hardcover and for Kindle on 27th August by Bantam Press (Transworld), and when it comes out in paperback in April 2016 it deserves to be a massive bestseller. Because as much as I loved Paula Daly’s other books, I really do think this one is even better.

My test of a good thriller is whether it keeps you turning the pages when you know you really shouldn’t – like at 2am, or when you haven’t started cooking dinner, or when you have a list of things you really have to do but haven’t managed to strike one item off. Another test is whether it stays with you in those moments when you’re not actually reading – this one occupied my every waking moment. And if you want a book that really defines the term “domestic noir”, this is it.

I loved Roz from the very first page – we all know people like her, she has faults many of us share, she struggles with life and all the injustices it throws at her, she works hard, she’s a wonderful mother to young George. Despite her immense financial problems, she’s doing her best to work her way out of them, and never loses her gentle humour and sense of the ridiculous. She’s surrounded by other real people – the personalities at the clinic, her social climber sister, the lovely Henry, the neighbours with the dog who’ll only walk one way, the feckless husband and his mother. But when everything becomes too much, and she has that difficult choice to make – that’s when her life goes totally off the rails and things turn very dark indeed. While I might not have made the same choices, I sympathised with her reasons – but bad decision follows bad decision, and the crash that then happens is something you’d really prefer to be reading with your eyes closed, head in a cushion, maybe from behind the settee. 

It’s a total roller coaster from beginning to end, gripping and perfectly paced, full of twists and turns, with a heroine you care about, some very funny and other totally heart-stopping moments: it’s a nightmare of epic proportions played out against the gentle Lakes setting that grounds it in normality and a familiar world. And I was so pleased to encounter again the familiar character of DC Joanne Aspinall, after her breast reduction: Roz doesn’t know her as well as the author’s readers do from the earlier books, but her presence certainly gave me a bit of a lifeline to hang on to. I’m not telling you any more of the story, but it’s very different, very original, and absolutely terrifying. This book is simply wonderful – don’t miss it, whatever you do. 

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Bantam Press/Transworld for my advance reading e-copy.

Paula Daly was born in Lancashire. Before beginning her first novel Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? she was a freelance physiotherapist and lived for a short while in France. She now lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy.  

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