My Darling Daughter - JP Delaney
Released: 15th September, 2022
Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 91% ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Domestic thriller
Premise: Gabe and Susie receive a letter out of the blue from 15-year-old Anna, claiming she’s Susie’s daughter who was put up for adoption when she was a baby - and that she now urgently needs their help.
Review: I’ve been a huge fan of JP Delaney’s thrillers since I stumbled across his amazing book, Playing Nice.
And so I’ve been eagerly anticipating his latest novel, My Darling Daughter and was fortunate to receive an advance copy.
My Darling Daughter is probably most similar in its premise to Playing Nice, than any of JP Delaney’s other works, in that it takes what could be a realistic life dilemma you could imagine happening and dives into the detail with forensic-like authenticity.
In Playing Nice, we’re asked to imagine a scenario in which a couple with a young son discover their child has been accidentally switched at birth in the hospital and now the parents of the child they are raising as their own are demanding his return.
In a similar vein, My Darling Daughter is the story of Gabe and Susie (told from their alternating perspectives) who receive a letter out of the blue from 15-year-old Anna, who claims she’s Susie’s daughter who was put up for adoption when she was a baby.
In the letter, she appeals to the couple for help, claiming that she’s in real trouble and doesn’t know where else to turn.
When Gabe and Susie investigate, delighted that Anna’s reached out to them, it appears her adoptive family have been subjecting her to appalling controlling abuse.
But this is a thriller. Things are never quite as they seem and this story is no exception.
Through every page, the reader is asked to question the truth and who’s lying, while posing the thought in your head ‘what would I do if I was in their shoes.’
Although an exceptional story, beautiful well told, it’s not quite on a par with Playing Nice.
Its strength is its realism. It’s clearly been incredibly well researched. The hoops and challenges Gabe and Susie are put through by social services and the authorities feel genuine and have you at times pulling out your hair in frustration.
And because of this, it becomes more than a simple thriller, and something of a critic of the way adoption and family legal matters are dealt with in the UK.
The only criticism I have, from a story perspective, is that while in Playing Nice I could totally identify with the main husband and wife character, in My Darling Daughter, Susie and Gabe and both famous musicians.
In fact, Gabe was in a boy band and they now live in a fabulous house in the country with all the trappings of wealth a successful career brings.
Unfortunately, for most people that’s a lifestyle we can only dream of, and makes it more difficult as a reader to slip into their shoes.
However, it doesn’t distract from a brilliant, rich, clever story. And if you love a good thriller with complex characters, I highly recommend My Darling Daughter.
Out of the blue, Susie Jukes 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?
AJ Wills is the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.