- Author: Claire McGowan
- Genre: Thriller, Mystery
- Publication Date: November 12, 2020
- Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
TRIGGER WARNING: infertility, ageism, sexism, racism, classism, stillbirth, mention of pedophilia, infidelity, mention of child abuse, adoption, graphic descriptions of birth and possible complications
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am providing my honest opinion voluntarily.
The party should have been perfect: six couples from the same baby group, six newborns, a luxurious house. But not everything has gone to plan, and while some are here to celebrate, others have sorrows to drown. When someone falls from the balcony of the house, the secrets and conflicts within the group begin to spill out.
DS Alison Hegarty, herself struggling with infertility, is called in to investigate. She’s convinced the fall was not an accident, and finds the new parents have a lot to hide. Wealthy Ed and Monica show off their newborn while their teenage daughter is kept under virtual house arrest. Hazel and Cathy conceived their longed-for baby via an anonymous sperm donor—or so Hazel thinks. Anita and Jeremy planned to adopt from America, but there’s no sign of the child. Kelly, whose violent boyfriend disrupted previous group sessions, came to the party even though she lost her baby. And then there’s Jax, who’s been experiencing strange incidents for months—almost like someone’s out to get her. Is it just a difficult pregnancy? Or could it be payback for something she did in the past? It’s a nightmare of a case, and as events get even darker it begins to look impossible. Only one thing is clear: they all have something to hide. And for one of them, it’s murder.
I struggled so much with some of the characters, for different reasons, and there were really two things that kept me reading long after when I normally would have stopped. First of all, I wanted to find out who had actually been killed. I couldn’t even figure out who had died until nearly halfway through the book. Once I figured that out, I wanted to know who had killed them. But even when I found out who had died, I wasn’t very sympathetic to that character. In fact, I wasn’t really sympathetic to very many of the characters at all.
There were a range of characters who consistently made comments that reflected a variety of biases and ignorance. There was one character who was intentionally created as a horrible person, but she consistently made racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic statements. One of the main characters probably could have been more likable, but there wasn’t a single chapter from her POV (and there were many of those) that didn’t include at least one reference to weight and the age difference between her partner and herself. I could have been a little more understanding if it was framed as her insecurity, but instead it came off as judgmental. There seemed to be a lot of emphasis placed on how desirable it is to be fit and toned and slim, while negative terms were constantly used to portray pregnant bodies, such as “waddling,” “hefting,” and consistently referring to one specific woman as a “cow.” In addition, women are apparently expected to get their shape and flat stomach back two weeks after giving birth, which I’ve never seen in real life.
I actually managed to figure out at least two of the plot twists, which was kind of disappointing, since there really weren’t too many to start with. Between the characters, the lack of suspense, the incredibly graphic descriptions of birth complications, and the constantly off-putting comments that were thrown in off-handedly, I wasn’t overly impressed with this book.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 6
Categories: Book Review