Book Review

All Her Fault by Andrea Mara


Marissa Irvine arrives at 14 Tudor Grove, expecting to pick up her young son Milo from his first playdate with a boy at his new school. But the woman who answers the door isn’t a mother she recognises. She isn’t the nanny. She doesn’t have Milo. And so begins every parent’s worst nightmare.


As news of the disappearance filters through the quiet Dublin suburb and an unexpected suspect is named, whispers start to spread about the women most closely connected to the shocking event. Because only one of them may have taken Milo – but they could all be blamed…


All Her Fault is a novel that throws you straight in at the deep end as Marissa experiences every parent’s worst nightmare. She arrives at the house of one of her son’s school friends to pick up Milo, only to find that he isn’t there, it’s the address of a total stranger, and that Jenny who supposedly set up the play date isn’t even aware of it. It’s clear the Marissa has been tricked, but by whom and for what reason isn’t immediately apparent.  You really feel for her as her initial panic – time in which she still believes there’s been an honest mix up – soon gives way to an all-consuming fear as the minutes in which Milo’s whereabouts are unknown turn into hours and the Gardaí are called to investigate.  I had questions as to how and why this could have happened, but I couldn’t help for feel for Marissa and her husband who are devastated by their son’s disappearance. 

Reading quite a lot in this genre, I usually have a reasonable idea of what to expect from this kind of novel.  It’s always a pleasant surprise then to come across a novel that has something a little different to offer the reader.  All Her Fault is one such novel. It starts with a missing child but goes in some unusual directions that I wasn’t expecting. It’s wonderfully complicated, with plenty of potential suspects and motives and it’s one of those novels where I suspected pretty much everyone at some point.  The reveals are done brilliantly, giving enough information to the reader to keep them engaged but without giving away too much too soon.    

It’s told from three perspectives. Through Marissa, we see the terror of a parent whose child has gone missing.  There’s the desperation for any hint of news – always hoping for the best and fearing the worst simultaneously.  Interestingly, we don’t get the perspective of the Gardaí directly, but we see the progress of their investigation through Marissa.  Her point of view also highlights the sheer effort required to keep going in such circumstances.  The second perspective is that of Jenny – mother of Jacob, the boy that Marissa believed her son was on a play date with.  While the circumstances cast suspicion on Jenny, she is quickly vindicated, and Marissa and Jenny begin to bond.  It’s clear that Jenny feels guilty, despite not being at fault, and she’s one of the few mums to help Marissa out, distributing flyers etc. and doing whatever she can to assist.  The third perspective is that of Irene. It would be a spoiler to say how she is involved, but she is rather different to both Marissa and Jenny. I don’t want to say too much, but she is immediately unlikeable – she comes across as a selfish individual who is out for whatever she can get and with little consideration for anyone other than herself. 

One thing that this novel does really well is looking at how others perceive such an event.  In All Her Fault, this comes from the parents at the school gate, who are very quick to point the finger and assign blame even where there is none.  There’s a sense of irony, and the saying “there but for the grace of god” springs to mind while reading this.  This could have happened to any one of those parents, however much they’d deny it, and yet there’s a clear sense of schadenfreude as they get to experience the drama, but one step removed. 

All Her Fault is a brilliant and complex take on the missing child scenario, and a novel that offers the reader something a little different. Original and gripping, I highly recommend this. 

All Her Fault is published by Bantam Press and is available from 8 July as an eBook and 22 July as a hardback. Huge thanks to Ruth Richardson for the opportunity to read this novel ahead of publication via Netgalley.

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