Playing Nice is the fourth book by Anthony Capella, writing as JP Delaney. I’ve enjoyed them all, two of them garnering very rare 4.5 stars from me.
I initially approached this a little nervously. Babies swapped accidentally at birth, felt a little ‘done’, but Delaney lulls us into a bit of a false sense of security before throwing in a few surprises.Playing Nice
by J.P. Delaney
Published by Quercus
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Pete Riley answers the door one morning to a parent's worst nightmare. On his doorstep is a stranger, Miles Lambert, who breaks the devastating news that Pete's two-year-old, Theo, isn't his biological child after all - he is Miles's, switched with the Lamberts' baby at birth by an understaffed hospital.
Reeling from shock, Peter and his partner Maddie agree that, rather than swap the children back, it's better to stay as they are but to involve the other family in their children's lives. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about just what happened on the day the babies were switched.
And when Theo is thrown out of nursery for hitting other children, Maddie and Pete have to ask themselves: how far do they want this arrangement to go? What are the secrets hidden behind the Lamberts' smart front door? And how much can they trust the real parents of their child - or even each other?
It’s in my nature to be suspicious so after Miles and his private investigator first visited Pete I had many questions…. most of those Maddie asked him later. Like, ‘What made Miles and Lucy test their own son’s DNA in the first place?’ From the outside looking in (not to mention my aforementioned suspicious nature) we get a bad vibe from Mike from the beginning. He’s a tad obsessive about Theo and rather disinterested in his own son David. And of course we learn Theo is very much the son the blokey rugby fan had in mind when fatherhood loomed.
Miles convinces Pete and Maddie to join them in the lawsuit against the hospital but Delaney intersperses the plot with legal file notes that reflect badly on Pete so we know things get ugly.
I liked getting to know Maddie and Pete. Delaney alternates narrators so we get a sense of who they are – as individuals and as a couple – and it means they have no secrets. From us anyway.
Of course the nature vs nurture debate is an obvious one here, but Delaney tempers it with parenting advice from psychologists that Pete, in particular takes heed of. Nevertheless, the dilemma faced and any possible way forward will be fraught. And of course that’s if Miles (and Lucy) were ‘playing nice’.
I felt affronted on behalf of Maddie and Pete when others so quickly jump to conclusions about their parenting and behaviour. Of course it has to be said that their naiveté makes them their own worst enemy, although in fairness to them they didn’t know they needed to be on the defence… (or do I mean offence?), from the moment Miles knocked on the door.
Delaney dips a bit into Maddie’s background here. She’s Australian and moved to the UK be with Pete, to the horror of her parents. Her father (and his legacy) in particular looms large.
If this was written by someone like Jodie Picoult it would be tragic. There’d be no winners and it would be traumatic. But, I’m safely in my thriller / suspense comfort zone here so we head in a different direction. At one point Pete ponders the tale of King Solomon and two women laying claim to a child (the real mother sacrificing her relationship so the child may live) so we’re reminded ultimately this is about the things we do for those we love.
Playing Nice by JP Delaney was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.