Stevie Carroll's Reviews > The Perfect Son

The Perfect Son by Lauren North
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it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed-elsewhere

Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

Along with unreliable narrators, I’m very partial to mysteries in which it’s impossible for all concerned to be telling the truth, and where the reader has to work out out who is either deliberately lying or is giving a version of events that seems true to them yet conflicts with how others involved have interpreted the same scenario. Such is the case in this debut novel, previously released in the UK with a slightly different title and with a different name for the principal narrator. If our protagonist’s narrative is true, then at least one of the secondary narratives is a lie, but which one? And what really happened in the weeks leading up to the point at which we are first introduced to the characters?

Recently widowed and still grieving intensely, Tess Clarke wakes up in hospital to find she has barely survived being stabbed. Initially she remembers very little of the events that took place on her son’s birthday. She knows he went missing immediately after she sustained her injury; however, none of the people around her appear to be doing much to look for him. Tess is certain that her son has been kidnapped, possibly by either her brother-in-law or the grief counsellor with whom she spent so much time in the weeks leading up to the incident. By trying to piece together, in order, the days between her husband’s death and the day she was stabbed, Tess hopes that she will be able to figure out what happened to her and to her son, who was responsible, and who else has been lying to her.

Tess is working in the garden, when the police arrive to tell her of her husband’s death in a plane crash. Mark had been on his way to a business conference when he, along with all the other passengers and the crew, were killed as a result of the pilot’s suicide. Horrified at what has happened, Tess is comforted by the presence of their seven-year-old son, Jamie, and tries to carry on with their life as normally as possible: taking him to school every day and trying to ensure that they have regular meals even when she doesn’t feel hungry. Simultaneously, she resists taking the antidepressants her doctor has prescribed for her and avoids the attempts of her family to reach out and help her.

As Tess is struggling to cope, she receives a visit from a grief counsellor, Shelley, who herself suffered the loss of her son some years before. As Shelley becomes part of Tess’ – and Jamie’s life – it seems to Tess that Jamie may prefer Shelley to his mother. Shelley, after all, seems at peace with her loss and has interests outside of her home and work. Meanwhile, Mark’s brother, Ian, is keen to talk to Tess about both the provisions made for them all in Mark’s will, of which Tess is the executor, and about a large sum of money he claims he lent Mark shortly before the accident.

Told mostly from Tess’ point of view – covering the week’s between the accident and Jamie’s eighth birthday, but also in the form of interview transcripts between Tess and the man questioning her about the day she was stabbed, along with statements from Ian and Shelley – a picture is built up for readers of how Tess saw the events. It’s obvious that something isn’t right, but I was mislead right up to the Big Reveal, when it became obvious who had been lying in their narrative – and why.

This was a wonderful twisty book that I really need to reread in order to spot all the clues that were placed there for readers and see if I could have spotted the realities of Tess’ life earlier. I’d be intrigued to see what happens to her after this; however, I feel that a completely separate book from the author would be a far more interesting next step.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 10, 2019 – Finished Reading
August 11, 2019 – Shelved
August 11, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed-elsewhere

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