I was on Twitter last week and I got a message from Alison Barrow at Transworld publishers asking if I’d like to read a debut novel set in the Lake District. Like most writers I have several jobs and a work-in-progress waiting, and I find I have to carve out time to read books I want to read, let alone review ones I’d never heard of. But I mailed Alison back to ask what genre, and she said ‘psychological thriller’. I ummed and aaahed, but then thought – but it’s the Lake District, the place I actually live. So I agreed to read it and I’m so glad I did because if I hadn’t I would have missed a fabulous read.
So I was feeling overstretched, and overworked, and over-committed to all the different things going on in my life and opened the book to find it was about a mother who was also overstretched, overworked and over-committed.
I so empathise with that feeeling.
Lisa is an exhausted mother of three. One day she takes her eye off the ball and completely forgets that her 13 year old daughter’s friend was supposed to sleep over. That is until she finds out the girl has gone missing. This is the parent’s second worst nightmare – someone else’s child is missing and you are responsible. To make things worse, there is a rapist on the loose who is targeting young girls.
Lisa as the main character is empathic and interesting. Her job running a dog re-homing charity is one which is already a full-time occupation stretching well past working hours. Daly’s depiction of Lisa’s typical day will ring bells with many women who are trying to find the elusive work/home balance that probably only exists in the media and not in real life.
All the other characters possess the quirks and flaws that make for real human beings, and Paula Daly is adept at showing the subtle power games that go on between female friends and between husbands and wives. Told from several points of view, including that of the local female police officer who is attempting to solve the crime, this will satisfy lovers of crime fiction and would also make a great Book Club pick.
Once you have begun this well crafted book you will find it impossible to put it down until you finish it and find out the less-than-obvious fate of the missing girl. I found I was reading through meals, reading whilst others were watching TV, staying up late to finish it. ‘Just What Kind of Mother are You?’ is a well-plotted, believable thriller with plenty to make you think, and I for one can’t wait for Paula Daly’s next book.
And of course I shall be recommending it to my unsuspecting book group who meet in Windermere where the book is set. And indeed to anyone who asks me what to read next.