It appears that Caroline Mitchell, author of the The Perfect Mother and other previous thrillers and works of psychological suspense, made a good decision when she switched from being CID to becoming a full-time author. Her latest release is a tense and twisty novel that offers some good character development and solid plotting to counteract a small bit of predictability and repetition. Roz is living in Dublin with her best friend when she discovers that she is pregnant after a secret one-night encounter. Roz feels unprepared to raise a child at this point in her young life, but is also unwilling to have an abortion due to her religious upbringing. Faced with this dilemma, she explores an option unique to our modern economy- a website offering to anonymously connect wealthy couples with surrogates or those looking for adoption in return for extensive compensation. Her roommate, Dympna, tries to dissuade her from following through with the arrangements, but Roz is dazzled by an offer that will have her pampered in NYC at the behest of a high-profile couple looking to pass off an unborn child as their own. She also believes that this is an incredible opportunity for her child to have the very best that life can offer. Roz is naïve but smarter than she first appears, and the reader may be initially frustrated by her actions but will come to respect her intuition and self-preservation skills. It is a little too late when Roz realizes that her circumstances are suspicious when she finds herself held captive by a celebrity couple who may have already performed some serious misdeeds in the past. Their money and influence have bought the silence of those who abet their scheme, and the woman in the couple seems to be completely unhinged and controlling to the point of abuse. Mitchell writes the character of Sheridan especially well. She manages to be an obvious villain, but still evokes pity and has some surprising attributes and a rationale that rescue her from becoming a caricature. Dympna is also a resourceful person in the story, providing the moral and rational voice that acts as the safety valve in the spiraling action. The novel is told primarily through Roz as the first-person narrator, with occasional guest chapters told from Sheridan and Dympna’s point of view. There are also cleverly placed excerpts from tabloid press “articles” that help flesh out the backstory of Sheridan and her superstar husband. The reveal of the paternity of the baby is not as surprising as it was intended to be, and some of the “Americanisms” are a bit off, but these are forgivable in light of the rest of the book’s overall quality. The Perfect Mother is not a perfect thriller, but it is an entertaining one- a solid choice that will delight those looking for an absorbing new read.
Thanks to the author, Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.