Just What Kind of Mother Are You?
Grove Press, 2013
Lisa Kallisto is a mother of three. Besides the fact that she needs look after a daughter and two sons of school age, she also works at an animal shelter, and her husband Joe, a taxi driver, often comes home late and rarely at home. The family lives in a small English town where almost everyone knows each other, which does not have its own schools, but there are many cottages for vacationers.
Two weeks before the described events in the town a schoolgirl disappears who then returnes a few hours later - half-naked, raped and woozy. The second victim of abduction becomes Lucinda, 13-year-old daughter of Kate and Guy Riverty, which was to spend the night at Kallisto's with Lisa’s daughter Sally. Sally got sick that day and did not go to school, and then forgot to remind her mother that Lucinda did not have a sleepover at their house. So it turns out that Lucinda disappears immediately after school, and only in the morning her disappearance is noticed. Immediately the police is called, and Lisa takes the blame. She blames herself for carelessness: if she supervised her daughter, she would have learned that Lucinda did not come to them with an overnight stay. But Lisa was just swamped with chores at home and at work.
In spite of everything, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly draws you in from the first page and does not let go until the end. The novel has that quality that you become powerless – you gulp this mediocre thriller in one sitting. But such involvement can obscure the many shortcomings of the book.
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a domestic thriller, and clearly the British make. This is indicated not so much in the place of action, but in how many chapters here is in italics, from the point of view of the offender. Only British writers continue to use this method from book to book, despite the fact that these chapters play almost no role. In this novel, these short chapters at least have some sense and help to better understand the plot.
But the plot is kept on coincidences. And, as is often the case, there is very little detective work: DC Aspinall immediately would be fired from her job as incompetent, let events of the novel happen in real life. Aspinall ignores the obvious things that would help in the investigation. The differences between the M.O. had to make the detectives to believe that they are dealing with multiple offenders. The search for the missing girl actually never have been held, although it is the first thing that should have been done by the police. When Lisa gave the detectives information and descriptions of the man who took the dog, detectives would not even consider this information. After the arrest of Guy Riverty the detectives first thing would have examined all the family property, knowing that they rent cottages. And the fact that the girls were so drugged and could not remember anything is unlikely, and this is done for the convenience of the author.
For convenience, there's a lot of things had been done, from the final run-in to the main twist, which the whole book had been built on. Daly so confidently assumes that just a tired mother is torn from the guilt about the missing daughter of a family friend. Lisa Kallisto, for all her imperfections, is not a monster. Even hard to say that she is caught in some real problems. Yes, the Kallisto family must work to support themselves, as opposed to the Riverty, living off renting, yes, Lisa and her husband have complications at work, but in fact they don’t have the serious problems. No one cheats on no one, there is no children with disabilities, nor is a serious debts. Daly makes a very large assumption, hoping that a tired mother of three will take the blame for the kidnapping of another man's child. This is hard to believe. It would be easier to believe that after the abduction of two girls Lisa would worry about the safety of her own daughter. But Lisa's children are mentioned only in the first third of the book, and then completely fade into the background. Likely that Lisa herself and her husband every day would drive theit children to and from school.
This nonchalant attitude to psychology only proves that Daly is a bad judge of character. She can build a theoretical psychological structure, but has no idea how people behave in real life. Thriller component is given a far larger place than psychology. Characters begin to run around, the number of crimes increases, respectively, the emotional impact is scattered. Trouble becomes too much to begin to empathize, to understand the emotional intensity. And the finale harms it: the one who deserves compassion, gets it under false pretenses.
The final twists are far from new, but it needs to praise Daley for her quite believable description of working days of the protagonist and personal problems of DC Aspinall. The author writes better about everyday life than thrilling stuff.
This book is a proof that page-turner is not a synonym for a successful book.