The Wrong Mother - Charlotte Duckworth
Published by Quercus, Wednesday 14th December 2022
A year ago, the fates aligned when Faye met Louis on a dating app for people who want to co-parent. 39, single and living a reclusive life as a piano teacher - it seemed as though Faye had finally found a route to happiness, and the child she'd always wanted.
A year later - Faye is on the run with new-born baby Jake, desperately seeking refuge in a remote Norfolk village. Serendipity strikes for a second time when Faye finds Rachel - an older, benevolent landlady with a room to rent in her cottage.
But Rachel has secrets of her own, and as Faye's fear of Louis finding them feed her insecurities about being a good mother to Jake, tensions quickly rise.
Charlotte Duckworth's latest offering, The Wrong Mother, is perfect for fans of family-thrillers. It's dark, twisty and character driven - a fantastic read!
The opening of the book delivers everything you want from a psychological thriller.
Dramatic prologue with a shattered skull? Check.
Extremely high-stakes? Well, Faye is fleeing with a very young baby, so - Check.
The burgeoning sense that nothing is as it seems? Check Check Check.
And actually, when I revisited the opening chapters to write this review, I was struck again by just how clever Duckworth's plotting and character creation is. She keeps you guessing, breadcrumb-dropping enough hints and enough details that an observant reader hooked.
Quite a character
I'm always an enormous fan of the multiple-POV novel - and Duckworth does this brilliantly. She also seems to sense exactly when we need a break from Faye's brittle, high-tension POV to something slightly more mellow, or a flashback to the past. This keeps the book pacy and tense, without ever feeling overwhelming.
I think the relationship between Faye and Louis in the flashback scenes is masterfully done. Faye's naivety is completely believable, and despite my knowledge of what the future would bring - I too was charmed by Louis and his effortless charisma.
At first I wondered whether Rachel's character - the elderly woman with a stringent attitude to cleaning - was something we've seen time and time before. I'm pleased to say I was wrong on this point - and Duckworth quite deliberately unravels the depth to Rachel's character as the book progresses.
Also, having read many books featuring dogs recently, as a cat person I was delighted!
I really cannot say anything about the ending without unleashing major spoilers, so I'll just say that it was riveting and delivered several massive twists!
When I got to the final few chapters I was actually reading on my kindle, while walking to my mum's house, in the dark. I took an extra-circuitous route so I could squeeze in as much reading time as possible!
I can only congratulate Duckworth on such a brilliant book - and will definitely be diving into her back catalogue now!
I've listened to a sample of the audiobook - I think it'd be a great listen.
Quercus is one of my go-to publishers for quality thrillers and they've certainly not missed the mark here.
I was given a free advanced-reader copy of this book, in exchange for a review.