Fast-paced crime thriller that will leave you gasping
Her Perfect Family - Teresa Driscoll
Thomas & Mercer
Released: 1st November 2021
Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 81% ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Private investigator mystery
Premise: On the day of her graduation, Gemma Hartley is shot and ends up in a coma in hospital, fighting for her life. As her parents sit worried at her bedside, the question is – who shot Gemma and why?
The good: A really fast-paced, readable thriller / crime fiction with lots of twists and turns and a great whodunnit at its heart
The bad: Marketed as a psychological thriller but is actually a detective story – an old fashioned whodunnit
The ugly: The ‘master detective’ is a private investigator, Matthew Hill who seems to be afforded quite unbelievable amounts of access to the police investigation
In summary: More of a good, old fashioned whodunnit than a psychological thriller, this is a highly readable and enjoyable story that will have you flicking through the pages.
Although this book is marketed as a psychological thriller, and has some psychological thriller elements, it’s primarily a good, old fashioned whodunnit.
Gemma Hartley is shot on her graduation day and ends up in hospital in a coma fighting for her life as the police, her family and a private investigator desperately try to work out who committed the crime and why.
Of course, there are lots of secrets and lies to be uncovered along the way, many of which are cleverly revealed to be hidden on Gemma’s laptop in files that appear to be essays but which are in fact diary entries.
Anyone with a modicum of understanding of story won’t struggle to identify the villain reasonably early on but this doesn’t distract from the book.
It’s a great story, well told in bite-sized, easy to read chapters that shift in point-of-view (POV) between Gemma (in her coma!), her parents and the private detective, Matthew.
There is no great twist at the end of the story, as you might expect with a psychological thriller, other than the identity of the villain, but this doesn’t detract from the novel at all.
The characters are well rounded and believable without Driscoll resorting into a deep dive into their backstories, other than for where it is relevant (or for red herrings).
What I particularly enjoyed about the story was the fast pacing. The story grabs you around the neck in the first few pages as we’re launched straight into the graduation scene where Gemma is shot.
We’re almost immediately taken into PI Matthew Hill’s POV as he happened to be nearby when the shot is fired and leaps into action to evacuate the cathedral where the graduation is taking place.
Driscoll could have really dragged this scene out, giving every spit and cough, but instead expertly gives us just enough detail to keep us engaged while sprinting on with the action. It’s masterfully done.
Sadly, the story has been marketed as a psychological thriller but it’s not, so beware if you’re looking for a hero who falls victim to a twisted villain.
The victim remains Gemma, even as she’s lying in hospital, as her attacker looks to finish off the job.
Matthew, the hero, is never targeted by the villain. It never becomes personal to him and therefore this remains a work of crime fiction.
Nonetheless, if that’s your bag, I’m sure you’ll love Her Perfect Family.
The perfect family? Or the perfect lie?
It’s their daughter’s graduation and Rachel and Ed Hartley are expecting it to be one of their family’s happiest days. But when she stumbles and falls on stage during the ceremony, a beautiful moment turns to chaos: Gemma has been shot, and just like that, she’s fighting for her life.
PI Matthew Hill is one of the first on the scene. A cryptic message Gemma received earlier in the day suggests someone close to her was about to be exposed. But who? As Matthew starts to investigate, he finds more and more layers obscuring the truth. He even begins to suspect the Hartleys are hiding something big—from him and from each other.
While Gemma lies in hospital in a coma, her would-be killer is still out there. Can Matthew unravel the family’s secrets before the attacker strikes again?
AMAZON CA (paperback)
AMAZON AUS (paperback)
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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.
*Mock-up image from freepik.com, created by yeven_popov