I managed to read three domestic thrillers last week, one after the other.
I must not be the target audience for these thrillers where a mother isn't paying attention and loses another parent's child. Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks sets us up immediately to dislike both mothers. Charlotte is annoyed by the fact that Harriet's four-year-old is wearing sunscreen so she'll need to find some for her own three children. She's annoyed by their whining and it wasn't long at all before I was annoyed by Charlotte and the way it felt like the author was carefully choosing details to make me dislike the woman. She's playing on her phone while she waits for the kids to come out of the inflatable Jungle Run, "reading some inane quiz and then scrolling through posts, getting caught up in everyone else's lives." Her own kids come running up to her after a few trips through, but little Alice doesn't.
Once I started to learn the details of what had happened to Alice it got interesting, but it took a long time to get there, with the chapters alternating between Charlotte (in first person) and Harriet (in third person) on the day of the disappearance, and Charlotte being interviewed in the present.
The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry is definitely disturbing. When an abandoned child is found in a parking lot and brought to the hospital where Christopher and Hannah work, the childless couple decide to become foster parents. Based on her size, the hospital staff originally thought Janie was a toddler, but the growth plates of her bones reveal that she's a brutally abused and malnourished six year old.
I was hoping for a chilling read along the lines of Baby Teeth, but I didn't care for this book at all. It keeps you at a distance from the characters (kind of like a badly written true crime drama) and I spent most of the time wanting to strangle both Christopher and Hannah who seemed to think that proper parenting would solve all of Janie's problems. They refuse to tell the parents of her peers about her past because that will excuse her actions...but with the way she's described in the first few pages of the book how could you not explain? Other parents are going to question her size, or her scars. It seems that one surgery fixed all of Janie's old bone breaks and physical problems (even though that surgery was on her elbow.) They never should have left her alone with a kitten, because you don't send a normal young child off to take care of her new pet without any supervision and Janie definitely isn't a normal young child.
I was honestly shocked when I read the author's bio at the end and learned that Lucinda Berry is a researcher in child trauma. The book felt completely unrealistic to me. I read it as a parent with absolutely no experience in the field, but the world does not end when a kid deliberately knocks paper towels off of the shelf at Target. Hannah wasn't equipped to deal with even that.
In The Girl Across the Street by Vikki Patis, Beth and Isla meet late one night at the site of a hit and run accident. They're unable to save the man, but that awful moment is the beginning of a friendship. Both of them are in bad relationships, although Beth's problems are more obvious than Ilsa's, and both of them are hiding secrets. When those secrets are revealed, they're not as earth-shattering as the book had me expecting. Some things that would be truly awful in real life just don't seem book-worthy.
Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies.