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The Trophy Child by Paula Daly

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Karen Bloom expects perfection from her daughter Bronte: her life is filled with structured activities. Then one day Bronte goes missing. It's a top class psychological thriller.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0593075210

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We've all encountered pushy mothers - the ones who seem determined not to let their children have a moment's peace between all the extra-curricular activities which they have arranged for them. Karen Bloom is in a different class though. Her son, Ewan, was something of a disappointment, but she's not going to allow that to happen to her daughter, the talented Bronte. There's not a moment to spare between the music lessons, dance classes and extra school work - sometimes they have to eat on the hoof from one lesson to another. The rest of the family can see the cost to Bronte and to the family as a whole, but Karen will not listen, will not change her ways. Then one day Bronte disappears.

DS Joanna Aspinall almost has a wealth of suspects. The husband - Dr Noel Bloom - is an obvious candidate. Joanna knows that the marriage is weak - she and Bloom had a one-night stand a matter of weeks before, but Joanna is keeping quiet about that for fear of being taken off the case. Then there's Ewan's friend who has already been cautioned for having sex with an under-age girl, but that was down to his innocence: she said she was sixteen and he believed her, despite the fact that everyone else can see that she's thirteen. Finally there's Verity, Noel Bloom's daughter from his first marriage, who's currently having to undergo counselling sessions after she attacked her stepmother.

My first experience of a Paula Daly psychological thriller was Just What Kind of Mother Are You? back in April 2013. It was her debut and frankly I was blown away. Her novels are set in the Lake district - and it's not the tourist haunts you visit, but the bits where the locals live - if they can afford the prices - and where there are definite seasons, usually dictated by whether or not the tourists are likely to be around.

The characters are great too. It's easy to dislike Karen Bloom, but she is genuinely doing what she thinks is best for her daughter and at a time when students who don't get A grades (at least!) in their exams are somehow deemed to be failures, when parents pay hundreds of pounds for help in producing a child's statement for university entrance, you can see why she's doing what she's doing. She's fierce about it too and doesn't take any prisoners (or, come to that, advice). I loved Verity, who's doing her best for Bronte and for her father, but who is always going to be regarded with suspicion.

I finished reading the book in just under twenty four hours - and frankly I would happily have gone back to the beginning and started all over again, just to see how Daly did it, because the ending is stunning. I had quite a few people pencilled in as the perpetrator, but never for a moment got near getting it right. It's brilliant, sparkling stuff and highly recommended. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Daly's not a one-trick pony - you'll also enjoy Keep Your Friends Close - I know I did!

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Peter said:

I loved this book and once started I simply couldn't put it down. Every character came off the page brilliantly and I've already ordered another of Paula Daly's books.