Released May 18 with Transworld, available here.
I have only read one Paula Daly book before, Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?, and although I enjoyed it, I felt as though the writing was a little stilted and not particularly vivid. However, I thought The Trophy Child was fab and very much improved (which makes sense as it’s her fourth as opposed to her first novel). It’s an example of the grip lit/domestic noir genre, which is something I’ve delightedly fallen face first into and have been wallowing in for years now. (The phrase ‘like a pig in shit’ comes to mind but obviously I am far too elegant for that! Obviously! OBVIOUSLY!!) There is honestly no better feeling than sitting down with a great domestic noir book – and something that I really enjoyed about The Trophy Child is that it was also extended a little into police procedural (although I would add that it’s less procedural and more character-driven).
I really liked Joanne Aspinall. I found that she was an incredibly engaging and warm character to read. I enjoyed her presence in the other Daly book I read and came to like her even more in this one. I liked her dark humour – which is a theme of the whole book, actually, and something that I really welcomed because frankly grip lit can get a little exhausting and self obsessed if it isn’t shot through with at least a little humour. (This is also true of human beings in general.) I liked that she fucks up and is still professional – she’s competent and intelligent and imperfect, and the way that she was seen through Noel’s eyes gelled well with the way that she sees herself. I liked that she’d had a breast reduction – which sounds like a small thing to like about a character but I honestly don’t think it’s something I’ve ever read about before and it made her all the more human and interesting.
I thought that the plot itself was good. I saw – on goodreads, maybe? – that Daly was described as one of the more cosy grip lit writers and I can see that – maybe because of that extremely welcome humour. Despite occasionally having very dark themes, this book was very easy to enjoy. I sort of vaguely guessed that the end perpetrator (sort of) would have something to do with what went on but I didn’t at all guess how exactly it would work, so that was a nice surprise and also something that felt very satisfying and like the right ending – it was a very well-formed plot. I liked Noel and his family – although I wanted to know more about Karen. Why was she the way that she was? I am maybe too sensitive about Evil Cow Women in a way that I am not about Evil Bastard Men, but I felt as though she was a vicious villain who didn’t have enough backstory for me. Her father was unpleasant but not enough to make her into the person that she was – and Noel wanting to make his marriage work for his children didn’t feel like enough to excuse his staying with her for so long, especially as the children weren’t happy. In a way, I did not feel as though he was remotely good enough for Joanne – he felt weak (if funny and interesting) and overly passive. (Another random point: I liked the mentions of his vitiligo. It’s just nice to have things like that in books that the characters aren’t obsessed by and that don’t remotely impact on the crimes, but that add a little representation in there.)
Verity was a fab character and so was poor little Bronte. Although appalling, Karen was charismatic and entertaining and the sort of person who is ghastly but a very welcome character to read about because she was unpredictable and interesting. I felt as though the book was less about ‘tiger mom’ parenting as it was about Karen specifically – I would have maybe liked to see the way that the other kids at Bronte’s school were affected by their multiple tutors and lessons and so on so that the theme was spread out more widely in the book.
In all, this was a good and really solid book with a satisfying ending and engaging characters. I’m looking forward to reading Daly’s next book – hopefully about Joanne Aspinall again – and I’m definitely going to purchase her other two books as well.