“Just What Kind of Mother Are You?” (2014), “Keep Your Friends Close” (2015) and “The Mistake I Made” (2015) by Paula Daly – a one-shot wonder?

There can only be one thing imaginably worse than losing your own child – losing someone else’s when they’re supposed to be under your care.

A bit like Clare Mackintosh’s “I Let You Go”, the story exploring “Just What Kind of a Mother Are You?” gets straight to the point and plunges straight into the open jaws of hell : ever had that skin-peeling sensation you get when the unthinkable jolly well goes and happens? Well, even if you haven’t, you get a taste of it here.

I couldn’t and didn’t put this book down. Ever the sucker for a good but not too gory thriller, this had all the ingredients to keep those pages turning and keep you guessing all the way through.

Paula Daly paints an uncomfortably true picture of the permanently harassed existence of an over-stretched mother, who knows she is living on a knife’s edge and is never quite in control – and I defy you not to squirm with horror at her realisation that the lights were on but that not everyone was home come the morning light. Talk about a rude awakening. I liked what Geoffrey Wansell said about this début novel and Paula Daly : “She writes with a singular voice and a fierce passion that roars off the page, while also displaying a visceral understanding of the betrayals and humiliations of domestic life”. This one twists and turns and it’s all entirely credible and it jolly well works.

So imagine the delight of realising earlier in the year that a second novel was already forthcoming. Nothing better than finding a writer whose work you discover, and wanting to read more of the same. I raced off to get “Keep Your Friends Close”, and by the time I’d finished it a slight furrow had appeared on the brow. And now I’ve just hared off again as Mrs Daly has gone to town and penned a third thriller in under three years.

But I’ve just finished “The Mistake I Made”, and I’m feeling all deflated. This new book is a progression of the disheartened feeling after reading Book Two, and am really hoping that the best has not yet been and that it won’t be all downhill from here on in.

The problem with the second book is that it is distinctly unmemorable, and six months after putting it down am hard pressed to recall the plot with any enthusiasm. The difficulty with this third offering is that it sets off in one (unlikely) direction, but actually ends up being somewhere else entirely, and the plot is nowhere near as plausible as Book One. Single mother Roz is just about believable, but only just, and the other characters feel very two-dimensional, while the whole Indecent Proposal idea just didn’t ring true for me at all, old cynic that I am becoming.

It’s a right royal shame. I really really hope that Paula Daly will take a very small breather and come up with another fantastic story like her first novel. “Just What Kind of Mother Are You?” has a rather daft title, but it is so engaging and witty and feisty, without a hint of contrivance or a smidgeon of the overdone. Terrible pun to end with, but I think a bit of a ‘mistake was made’ with this latest one – I await the next book with baited breath and no small measure of crossed fingers for a much sought after return to form.

“Just What Kind of Mother Are You?” – 10/10

“Keep Your Friends Close” – 8/10

“The Mistake I Made” – 6/10

Images taken from here and here.
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8 Responses to “Just What Kind of Mother Are You?” (2014), “Keep Your Friends Close” (2015) and “The Mistake I Made” (2015) by Paula Daly – a one-shot wonder?

  1. FictionFan says:

    I often think it’s the pressure authors are put under to churn out books really quickly, especially if they’ve had a big hit. And there’s such a tendency in crime these days for people to try to reproduce a ‘winning formula’ rather than getting the time they need to develop their own style.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise says:

      I was just going to say something similar! I think it is a real shame and dare I say it, a terrible waste of paper, and of people’s expectations. I think it is very difficult to write a good thiller or detective story because of the tricky balance between being plausible yet still unpredictable. Maybe it’s harder to write a truly good thriller than any other genre, but this doesn’t seem to be something that is recognised by publishers and editors.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, I think you’re right. Really hope P.D. will not succumb to more pressure for another “quick fix” book as the first write was really so great. Fingers crossed…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting. I’ve not read any of Paula Daly, but I saw an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro where he was asked about the fact that he often writes upon the same themes. He said he thought it was the job of the artist to keep exploring the same ground, making it a deeper and more complex portrayal across all the work. However, there’s a difference between this and re-hashing the same ground because it worked before!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m frustrated because thought it was going to be like spotting a new Maggie O’Farrell or a Kate Atkinson on the shelf and knowing you were going to love whatever was there. I read one Camilla Lackberg after another a couple of summers ago and it took till about book six to get to that “enough” feeling!


  5. susan says:

    The premise of her debut novel does make me squirm. How uncomfortable. I would just freak. How spooky, even the cover of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins (2015) – book review | Literary ramblings etc

  7. Pingback: “I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh (2014) – book review | Literary ramblings etc

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