Source: Review copy
Publication: 9 January 2020 in e-book from Trapeze 30 April 2020 in p/back
They meet at their NCT Group. The only thing they have in common is they’re all pregnant.
Three years later, they are all good friends. Aren’t they?
One Missing Husband.
Now the police have come knocking. Someone knows something.
And the trouble with secrets is that someone always tells.
The bond between mothers and their children is strong, but there is also a strong bond between these 5 mothers who met at their NCT class and stayed with each other throughout their pregnancies. A chav; a media-twat; a hippy; a Sloane and a frump. They should have nothing in common, but their shared experience has brought them together and after their various births, they stay in contact.
Sarah Naughton’s book moves effortlessly between past and present; painting a picture of these womens’ lives with their children and where appropriate, their partners. Unlikely friends, they nevertheless bond and look out for each other at their regular Mother’s Club get-togethers.
Naughton gives us pen portraits of each of these women; their troubles, the secrets they are hiding and their relationships, warts and all.
Then Bella Upton’s husband goes missing and the police are called in to investigate. Detective Inspector Iona Chatwin is called in to investigate and soon it becomes clear that this family had a lot to hide. Has Ewan Upton done a runner, or is something darker at work here? When one of the women, Jennifer Baptiste, who had taken on the role of child-minder to Bella, cannot be found, the police begin to see connections.
Naughton’s book tells the story from the perspective of each of the women involved, seamlessly weaving their stories from when they met through to the present day. This character driven narrative creates a well rendered picture of each of the women and the challenges they face in their roles as partners, mothers and in their working lives.
Each has a story to tell, but no-one is telling the whole story. Their fraught lives begin to fall apart as Naughton lets us into their daily struggles to stay on top of their lives. We get to know these women well enough to be able to follow the different lives without difficulty.
The unlikely friendships are explored and Naughton shows us how their bonds are tested, leading to the disappearance of Bella’s husband.
Into this scenario, Naughton introduces the possibility of not one but two crimes, leading the police to conclude that they must be related. But the women claim to know next to nothing and their friendship starts to look a lot more superficial than we knew.
Naughton cleverly layers her plot so that there is tension and real mystery surrounding these women and as the story peels back the layers, there is a very real psychological thriller at its heart.
Verdict: Clever plotting, addictive and credible characters lead to a nicely twisted mystery that grips the reader’s attention and builds to a satisfying conclusion.
Sarah J Naughton was born in 1975 and grew up in Dorset. She studied English Literature at UCL and has been in London ever since, spending ten years as a copywriter in an advertising agency before giving up to have children.She was shortlisted for The Costa Children’s Book Award for her novel, The Hanged Man Rises, and now writes psychological fiction for adults.She lives with her husband and two sons.