BLURB: The Mistake I Made is the latest page-turner from one of the England’s most captivating new thriller writers. In her provocative and riveting third novel, Paula Daly focuses her masterful eye for psychological suspense and family drama on an indecent proposal that has fatal repercussions.
Single mother Roz has a reached breaking-point. After the dissolution of her marriage, Roz’s business has gone under, debts are racking up, the rent is late (again), and she’s struggling to provide for her nine-year-old son, who is starting to misbehave in school. Roz is in trouble. Real trouble.
When Roz returns home from work one day and finds an eviction notice, she knows that it’s time for action—she has two weeks to find a solution otherwise they will be kicked out of their home. Increasingly desperate, Roz doesn’t know where to turn. Then the perfect opportunity presents itself. At her sister’s fortieth birthday party, Roz meets Scott Elias—wealthy, powerful, and very married. But the impression Roz leaves on him is indelible. He tracks her down and makes Roz an offer to spend the night with him—for money. He wants no-strings-attached intimacy and can guarantee total discretion. Could it be as simple as it sounds? With that kind of cash, Roz could clear her debts and get her life back on track. But as the situation spirals out of her control, Roz is forced to do things she never thought herself capable of. Can she ever set things right again?
I’d utterly forgotten I was meant to be reviewing this book I read a couple (er, several) weeks ago. Myself and a few other female bloggers with whom I’m friendly (and who, like me, clearly have no other plans on a Friday night!) did a “buddy read”, if that doesn’t sound too American. I think I was probably the last to finish, on Sunday morning, but it was fun and it’d be good to do again. We are all fans of Paula Daly, author of Keep Your Friends Close (read) and Just What Kind Of Mother Are You (have; unread.) Paula’s work is what is commonly-known as domestic noir – don’t yawn, she’s one of the best proponents. Why? Well, priumarily it’s her characters – they’re real. They’re not perfect. They’re funny. They’re bright, capable, qualified. But they f*** up, for a variety of reasons – blame some on the Fates, some on circumstances or crappy luck, and some, to a certain extent, on their own denial. It’s a perfect storm, and our protagonist’s at the centre. Roz is a physio, and she’s skint. She’s also a single parent (with a feckless ex, whose cheeky charm I could just about see the attraction of, although I often shook my head…) In the past, Roz had borrowed a considerable sum of money from her parents’ in order to start up her own physiotherapy practice. However, due to the recession, Winston (the ex) was paid off, the marriage went down the pan, the practice went bottom up, their house was repossessed, and she’s still paying off all Winston’s unsecured debts. Her parents ended up unable to enjoy the retirement they’d saved for. Her sister Petra and her husband Vince have helped her out a bit in the past too, but Petra has warned her their parents can’t be put under additional stress, financial or otherwise. By now Roz is employed by a physiotherapy chain, working longer hours further away for less money, and bringing her 9-year-old son George up pretty much alone. However, at Petra’s birthday party Roz meets Scott Elias, a married man in his early 50s, who makes his interest in Roz plain. He makes an urgent appointment at Roz’s clinic, asks her to go for a drink, which she refuses. The next day he returns and says, “I’d like to pay to spend the night with you”.
At this point, Roz has had her furniture repossessed, and George has been caught stealing at school as he’s aware of their problems. When the final straw is about to hit the camel’s back, she relents (although possibly she knew, short of a miracle, she’d always have to, in the end.) But she’s disgusted with herself…
Of course, the money doesn’t last long, and Roz is soon seeing Scott again. It’s a dangerous situation – they live in the Lake District, a rural area, where, as I know from childhood, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a secret. But her desperation outweighs her reservations. Add in the added complication of Scott and his wife Nadine being friends socially and you just know that it can’t continue.
So when someone finds out, and then a murder is committed, Roz realises just how out of her depth she is…
Daly excels at these “wolf in sheep’s clothing” / charming psycho – call them what you will – characters; as does she the “everywoman” in an impossible situation, making the reader ask themself how they’d react. The men are generally slightly gormless, as well as led by their dick, so there’s accuracy right there – we recognise that type too (some of us may be in a relationship with one; I’m not, I’m happy to say, although he is crap at some things…I jest, obviously!)
This is one for when you’ve a night in or a day off, as you really don’t want to put it down without discovering what fresh hell is in store for Roz – I wouldn’t have put it down, except I’d Important Stuff to do. Plenty of humour and natural dialogue make it a real joy to read, too, and you’ll fly through the pages. They also add to the feasibility of the story. The only downside will be waiting on the next Paula Daly.
And girls, let’s do a group read again sometime very soon!
For fans of Colette McBeth, CL Taylor, Samantha Hayes, Paula Hawkins.
Very highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher Corgi and NetGalley for allowing me access to an early proof of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.