The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner

The Other Mothers is a thriller of many layers, with more than one puzzle to solve. Katherine Faulkner starts in the present, as the police interview Tash regarding an episode on the nearby cliffs. What has happened on the cliffs, and to whom? And why? Is Tash victim, witness, or perpetrator? We return to the year before, when Tash as a freelance journalist is challenged to find the true story behind the death of a young nanny named Sophie. At the same time, a group of mothers from her child’s playgroup begins to include Tash, providing socialization for her child and a new niche for her. Tash is out of her comfort zone, as these other mothers seem to have spending powers far beyond her means, but she joins in, makes friends, and soon discovers all is not as it should be in this elite world. There are many possible scenarios, many possible murderers, and many hidden agendas.

Tash is a misfit in this high-society group, “adopted” to the group but out of her league, socially and financially. Tash initially wants to fit in for her son’s sake, and only later begins to discover links to Sophie’s life and death, but we wonder what the group’s precise agenda is: Is this charitable concern or something a little more sinister? Tash might be their professional peer, but it is evident she is not their social peer. I was reminded of the 2004 movie Mean Girls, in which home-schooled Cady is taken under the wing of the Plastics, the teen royalty of her new school. There is a sense that Cady is both project and threat to the Plastics, but which is Tash to these “other mothers” – project or threat? The cover-ups occur on many levels, and as one builds on another, we have a sense of a house of cards easily toppled – for some of these stories are built on lies or misunderstandings by the perpetrators.

The author moves between the point of view of Sophie, who narrates the events leading up to her death, and that of Tash, who takes us through the discoveries she makes in the present. Initially, I needed to check the headings to be sure which narrator was speaking, but that became easier as I learned to identify Tash’s and Sophie’s distinct narrative styles. I also found tracking the secondary characters confusing at times. Although main characters Tash, Laura, Nicole, and Claire were manageable, I had to reread to keep the husbands, children, jobs, and who knew whom in what other context straight. This became easier in the second half, as by now I had worked out the key relationships, but the pace lagged for me while I was establishing the backgrounds and relationships of the characters.

Perhaps this pacing was the author’s intention, for in the latter half of the book the chapters were tighter, and the action more condensed; the pace accelerated, and I found myself racing for the next page. We are engaged by characters like Tom and Sal, for they seem to carry secrets and might not be who we think they are. We are teased with an apparent ending, then turn the page to discover we are far from finished. There are no simple resolutions here, as layers of betrayal, falsehood, and cover-up surface. As often as I worked out a resolution, Katherine Faulkner introduced a new direction, and this is what a compelling mystery needs. In the end, we are rushing toward the conclusion: Will the truth come out – or will the best story win?

And that, I leave to the reader.

About the Author

Katherine Faulkner, an award-winning journalist, studied history at Cambridge. She has worked as an investigative reporter and an editor and was formerly the joint Head of News at The Times (London). She lives in London, where she grew up, with her husband and two daughters. She is the author of The Other Mothers and Greenwich Park.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster (Dec 5 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1668027879
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1668027875

Anne M. Smith-Nochasak grew up in rural Nova Scotia and taught for many years in northern settings including Northern Labrador,  the focal setting for her second novel. She has retired to Nova Scotia, where she enjoys reading, writing, and country living. She has self-published two novels through FriesenPress: A Canoer of Shorelines (2021) and The Ice Widow: A Story of Love and Redemption   (2022).