Only a Mother is an edgy, psychological thriller that keeps the reader emotionally taut and suspicious at the turn of every page.
Craig Wright has spent 17 years in jail for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Lucy Sharpe, and there is a cloud of suspicion hanging over him for the unsolved murder of another young woman at the time, Jenna Threlfall. Erica, his mother, has never doubted his innocence and has suffered at the hands of the local community all those years, with verbal abuse, alienation and attacks on her home. She even lost her best friend Denise and the pervasive feeling of isolation and loneliness are palpable. Her only interactions are with online group friends of relatives of guilty prisoners, and prison visits to see her son.
Old family secrets start unwinding in an already charged atmosphere and some run to the core of how their lives have played out. Craig has never known his father as Erica’s relationship with him was only a passing encounter and he was gone long before Craig was born. Erica had a difficult time with her own mother in a single parent family. Erica is a character so beautifully drawn that we naturally care deeply for her. She is the forgotten sufferer, maybe not as acute as the victim’s families, but as an innocent, she suffers the continuous abuse from other, and the belief her son is punished for something he didn’t do. We deeply sympathise with her as she has grown old, timid and detached.
I love the sharp punchy writing style that portrays a sense of tension and anxiety. There is a menacing atmosphere with the long-term threats that have been made from those that live in the area. When Craig is released he is no longer the same man and we are tempted into guessing what has caused the change – prison life, social rehabilitation, loss, guilt, frustration, or the unfairness of it all. When another girl goes missing, all the old accusations, suspicions, confusion and worry resurface. The reader is reminded that most criminals will re-offend within 6 months of being released. Just saying!
The suspicion of who the killer is falls on several characters. That mistrust of all the characters is so extremely well developed, as it creeps up on you as you progress through the story. If Craig is the killer, will he do it again? If he’s not the killer, will the real killer take advantage and kill again, framing Craig … again?
I found the story gripping and delivered at a pace that doesn’t allow you to draw breath. The writing style and craft are perfect for the suspense thriller genre and the plot was full of surprises that kept me guessing. Some shocking developments add to the realisation that core to this story is a cold-hearted, remorseless murderer, capable of killing anyone.
It was a sheer delight to read this book and one I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend. I would like to thank Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.