Title: Playing Nice
Author: JP Delaney
Published: July 28th 2020
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4 stars
Pete Riley answers the door one morning to a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s two-year-old, Theo, isn’t Pete’s real son – their babies got mixed up at birth.
The two families – Pete, his partner Maddie, and Miles and his wife Lucy – agree that, rather than swap the boys back, they’ll try to find a more flexible way to share their children’s lives. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an investigation that unearths disturbing questions about just what happened the day the babies were switched.
And when Theo is thrown out of nursery for hitting other children, Maddie and Pete have to ask themselves: how far do they want this arrangement to go? What secrets lie hidden behind the Lamberts’ smart front door? How much can they trust the real parents of their child – or even each other?
An addictive psychological thriller, perfect for fans of The Silent Patient and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door.
‘The fact was – and this, I ruefully admitted to myself, was where my dad’s assessment of him did contain a tiny grain of truth – Pete was simply too nice to succeed in an environment like that, when backs were against the wall and the fighting turned dirty.’
Following his global bestselling novel, The Girl Before, which has been published in over forty different countries, JP Delaney serves up another gripping and thought provoking psychological thriller with Playing Nice. A story of unexpected circumstances, manipulation, parenting, upbringing, custody arrangements, legal processes and mistakes defines this compelling new mystery novel from a highly regarded author.
JP Delaney exposes a parent’s worst nightmare in his latest psychological thriller offering, Playing Nice. Pete Riley never expected to open his door one day to a stranger who will change his life and the life of his family through one simple encounter. This stranger declares that a terrible mix up occurred with his own son and Pete’s son Theo at birth. This statement and discovery has far reaching implications for both families involved in the bungle. As the two families work on some kind of fair and amicable custody arrangement, the resulting legal fight to bring the hospital to account for their actions culminates in some surprising revelations. Meanwhile, young Theo, the two year old boy at the centre of the custody tussle is experiencing his own behavioural issues, which brings the parenting styles of his parents Pete and Maddie to critical attention. With the pressure on to come to a suitable care arrangement, secrets, trust and hard truths circulate around this very complicated scenario.
Playing Nice is the fourth psychological thriller novel from JP Delaney. I have read all but one of Delaney’s books and I have also read a book written by this Ugandan born, British based author, who uses the penname of Anthony Capella. Whether a JP Delaney or Anthony Capella title, I feel that this writer has a wonderful way with words, displaying a special ability to produce books from a range of genre types. Playing Nice was another high class read from this trusted author.
Playing Nice presents quite a flooring and upending scenario. We are thrown into the chaos very early on in the piece, with the stranger infiltrating Pete Riley’s life and that of his family in the opening sequences of the novel. This served to hook me right in from the onset. My loyalty to this story was cemented in the early stages of this novel and I remained firmly attached to Playing Nice for the duration. The pace was even, the story utterly gripping, and the characters were flawed but also natural in their responses. Delaney serves up plenty of twisted acts, unexpected revelations, game changing truths and interesting character dynamics. This is an author who knows how to keep his readers guessing and their minds ticking over. Playing Nice offered a satisfying reading experience.
I really took to the structure that Delaney adopted for his fourth novel. Switching between Pete and his wife Maddie, we witness the unravelling of this complex switched at birth case from a male and female’s point of view. I appreciated the differences in opinion and the emotional responses of both parents. I also liked how Delaney reversed the parent and gender roles of his leads. In Maddie we have a career dominated woman, who finds greater satisfaction in her job than parenting. In Pete, we have a man who decides to put his career as a journalist on the backburner to take over parenting duties. This was represented well by Delaney and it also added an extra speculative spin on the events that unfold. Within the narrative, Delaney competently explores the controversial scenario of nature vs nature in regards to this switched at birth case and the need to make firm arrangements around the appropriate care of the child involved. The cases and issues presented were considered and realistic. I had my own opinions of how this complicated case should be handled, and it was interesting to see how my ideas squared up against the legal court processes of this case. Delaney weaves in a number of supporting materials to this case in the form of forum posts, letters, emails, message transcripts, court case notes and psychological tests. There is also the extra focus on neonatal care pressures, postpartum depression and child services, which provides additional ground to this complex case. Overall, Playing Nice features a full and involving narrative, that competently explores many corners of an emotionally fraught case. I stuck around for the bitter end, as I was unsure how it would all pan out, especially as Delaney is known for his unexpected plot twists. It was well worth it to witness the shocking final turn of events!
Full of turmoil, topical issues, heart breaking choices, tumultuous plot turns and manipulative deeds, Playing Nice is a book that is completely worthy of a position on your reading pile.
Playing Nice by JP Delaney is published by Hachette Australia on July 28th 2020. $32.99.
To learn more about the author of Playing Nice, JP Delaney visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book #9 of the 2020 International Male Author Challenge.