Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!
As you may know by now, I have recently been reading new Mystery/Thriller novels like it is nobody’s business! The mystery/thriller genre has been my favourite since 2018, but I think I have read more books from that genre this year than I did all of last year! In 2019, I read J.P. Delaney’s The Perfect Wife, and while I really enjoyed it, I did not find to be very memorable. However, with her newest mystery/thriller Playing Nice, I don’t think I will be able to forget this story or these characters for a very long time.
Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son–he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.
The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents–or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.
They are done playing nice.
There are two word I would use to describe this book: simply stellar. Everything about this book was so simple, but done to such a high degree of effectiveness. The overall concept of this novel is unique, but done so simply with such intricate emphasis on the plot. As I previously shared, I have read one other J.P. Delaney book, The Perfect Wife (click here to read my review), and while I enjoyed that one, I enjoyed this novel so much more. I found as the story in The Perfect Wife developed, it became less and less realistic, whereas that never happened with this one. I truly think what makes this book so thrilling, is not due to any specific detail in the novel itself, but rather the plot seems so horrifyingly realistic.
In the past, I’ve had issues with the pacing and longevity of thrillers—especially those that are around the 400 page mark. Some seem to drag on for ages, and not everything in them tends to be necessary for the overall development of the plot. However, this book felt like one of the shortest thrillers I have ever read—even though it is over 400 pages! The pacing of this novel was impeccable, and since this book has small twists or conversations that lead you to want to continue reading at the end of each chapter, I read the book so quickly, which in this case, I did unintentionally. Sometimes, especially in readathons, I will read quickly for a purpose, but this book was so engrossing and captivating that it pushed me to read it at an unusually quick speed.
The POV style of this book was very surprising, and immediately caught me off guard. You would think that a novel that centres around a pair of couples whose children were accidentally swapped at the NICU upon birth would be written in two POVS—one person from each respective couple. However, in this novel, the book is written from two POVs—the man and woman who have a partnership together (they are not married). As the plot line develops, it is unknown as to why the author made this choice, but when you get to the last few chapters, it suddenly becomes clear.
The writing itself was very simple, but incredibly enjoyable. I find that in thrillers, I appreciate simple yet clear writing, as it makes the story easy to read and helps to pick the pace of the book up, even if it is a little bit slow, unlike this particular novel.
The characters were very, very interesting. Immediately upon reading this book, I felt attached to Pete, the father of Theo. He is a stay-at-home father, a profession that is not typically amplified enough in many adult novels. He is a very kind and sensitive person, and takes passion in taking care of his son while his wife is at work. Because I liked him so much, it was easy to care deeply about his emotions and thoughts while the story developed. I also really enjoyed reading from Maddie’s perspective, Pete’s partner and Theo’s mother. She has a very distinct and ominous voice throughout the book, and her character developed into something unexpected but very appreciated as the novel concluded.
This book was an amazing mystery/thriller, that embodied everything I love about and in mystery/thriller novels. I rated this book 5/5 stars, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys novels centred around family dynamics, children, or court room dramas.
Good Night Book Owls!