My Darling Daughter is the fifth book written by Tony Strong under the pseudonym of JP Delaney and I’ve (now) read and enjoyed all five. They lean strongly to domestic noir, featuring secrets kept between partners or husbands and wives and challenging relationships to breaking point. They’re also consistently clever and offer a number of twists and surprises so readers generally need to be prepared to strap themselves in.
My Darling Daughter
by J.P. Delaney
Published by Quercus Books
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Out of the blue, Susie Jones is contacted on social media by Anna, the girl she gave up for adoption fifteen years ago.
But when they meet, Anna's home life sounds distinctly strange to Susie and her husband Gabe. And when Anna's adoptive parents seem to overreact to the fact she contacted them at all, Susie becomes convinced that Anna needs her help.
But is Anna's own behaviour simply what you'd expect from someone recovering from a traumatic childhood? Or are there other secrets at play here - secrets Susie has also been hiding for the last fifteen years?
The book opens with Susie being contacted by her biological daughter (born Sky, but renamed Anna by her adoptive parents). Naturally those of us who are suspicious by nature and read a lot of crime fiction and thrillers, assume something is afoot and Anna isn’t who she says she is. (Starting out a life of manipulation and chaos at 15 years of age). However… Delaney puts us in Anna, Susie and Gabe’s heads so we get to know exactly what they’re thinking and we quickly learn that Anna is certainly the daughter that Susie gave birth to years before.
She bonds with Susie in particular before making claims about her adoptive parents. Gabe wants to keep Susie happy (and knows how much she’s wanted children) but is more cynical suggesting some of the things that Anna’s complaining about ARE simply parents setting boundaries. Some of Anna’s claims are worrying however (and there’s mention of a therapy used by her adoptive parents I remember from an episode of Law & Order SVU!) When confronted however, they throw blame back at Anna who (they say) can be manipulative and suffered from attachment disorder or adoptive child syndrome.
Again, Gabe isn’t as easily swayed but soon Susie and Gabe are Anna’s safe haven – only to be arrested and charged with child abduction as a result.
Because we’re in Anna’s head there certainly are things that don’t add up. She does seem to be manipulative, but readers (along with Susie and Gabe) wonder if she’s just doing what she needs to in order to escape a bad situation.
We think we can see where this book is going and the proverbial slow motion car crash happens slowly before our eyes, but Delaney keeps changing things up… going in an unexpected direction. I liked the way he dives into the relationship between Susie and Gabe, particularly the fallout after some of Susie’s old secrets are revealed. But also the reflection on their ‘journey’ dealing with loss and infertility. It’s central to the unfolding plot – that unrequited desire – along with regret and guilt.
I really enjoyed this book and am happy with the real estate Delaney’s books are starting to take-up on my bookshelves.
My Darling Daughter by JP Delaney will published in Australia by Hachette and available from 15 September 2022.
** I’d definitely recommend this for bookclubs because there’s an opportunity for some juicy discussions arising from some moral or ethical dilemmas here. **
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.