Book review: How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward

Thursday, December 19, 2019 Permalink

I read and enjoyed Jacqueline Ward’s The Perfect Ten last year. It was Ward’s debut novel and I notice, in my review, I talk about my enthusiasm to read whatever she would next publish.

Thankfully I’ve now had the opportunity to do that and both books are similarly themed – domestic noir. Men behaving badly, though (at the same time) not bastardising all men; and a reminder of the strength women can find when needed.

Book review: How to Play Dead by Jacqueline WardHow to Play Dead
by Jacqueline Ward
Published by Corvus Atlantic Books
on 03/12/2019
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1786493799, 9781786493804
Pages: 352

Ria Taylor is everything to everyone. Wife and mother, the centre of her family. And the manager of a refuge for women whose partners have driven them out of their own homes.

But one night, with her husband away, Ria receives a terrifyingly sinister message. Someone is watching her. Someone who seems to know everything about her. She knows what she should do - seek help, just like she tells her clients to. But Ria is the help. As events escalate, and terror takes hold, Ria must decide whether to run or hide...

This book unfolds from the point of view of Ria, along with a woman in a manipulative and abusive relationship, Tanya.

Initially Tanya’s defensive of her husband and his controlling ways, though snippets of her fear and signs of attempts at rebellion start to slip through. Tanya’s story unfolds in a vacuum in some ways… so we don’t know if it’s being told in the present, or perhaps in the past.

Most definitely in the present is Ria. I realise I’m being judgey here (and guess it reflects my long-term single status) but she seems bizarrely dependent on her husband and very much fretting about his month-long absence even before the threats against her start.

We learn Ria’s estranged from her parents and there’s an obvious backstory there… something that happened when she was younger and she alludes to having experienced violence or trauma years before. She also seems to struggle with some guilt and secrets she’s kept over the years.

We also meet a couple of clients of Ria’s as well as some colleagues.

Domestic violence has been an underlying theme in both books I’ve read by Ward. I note she’s a psychologist and well-placed to understand the nuances of the physical and invisible abuse wreaked upon women (and men and children presumably).

As mentioned in the blurb, Ria’s faced with situation she cautions many of her clients about and thankfully well aware the decisions they’re forced to make (as she is here) aren’t always the easiest.

Ward introduces a number of potential threats. Ria makes reference to her husband’s anger a few times; and there’s her estrangement with her parents; and partners of clients – all of whom give off some sinister vibes. And then of course there’s Tanya and we wait to see how her world will collide with that of Ria’s.

I really enjoyed this book. It offers an engaging plot with complex and multi-layered characters facing real-world (so realistic and relatable) problems. Another great read from Ward.

How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


Comments are closed.