Told from the points of view of three women whose lives intertwine, Hayes (Someone Else’s Son, 2011, etc.) sets her new novel in Birmingham, England, and spins out a plot that twists and turns from beginning to the end.
While the idea isn’t new, and sometimes Hayes’ writing tends toward clunky, she scores a hit in this sometimes-discomfiting story of a very pregnant woman, a mysterious nanny involved with another woman who wants a baby, and a police investigator whose marriage and personal life are on the rocks. Claudia is a Royal Navy officer’s wife. A submariner, James leaves for long deployments, and Claudia has grown used to being apart. But this time, she’s ready to deliver a baby and is left alone with James’ young twin sons by his first marriage. They hire a nanny, Zoe, a woman with perfect references. However, Zoe is not only not named Zoe, she’s a total fabrication who is desperate in real life to please the unbalanced woman with whom she once lived. And Lorraine, a police detective and mother of two girls, has partnered with her cheating husband, Adam, also a detective, to investigate cases in which pregnant women are attacked and their babies cut from their wombs. Each woman takes turns recounting the events that propel the story forward, with Claudia and Zoe speaking in first person and Lorraine in third person, which sometimes seems odd but manages to work. Hayes builds suspense gradually, adding layer after layer to her tale until the ending, which delivers both frantic, page-turning pacing and a surprise ending. However, readers may find the story contrived in places—particularly where the stories of Lorraine and her husband intersect with the other two—and may ultimately feel a bit manipulated by the author rather than entertained.
Fewer red herrings would have made this a better read, but Hayes’ tale succeeds despite them.