There’s something oddly satisfying about curling up in the winter with a book that’s a far cry from all the holiday cheer. (We can only take so many cookie exchanges and cheesy movies before we start to crave a bit of edge.) This year, The Other Mothers, a twisty new thriller by London-based writer Katherine Faulkner (Greenwich Park), is your best bet.
Tash Carpenter lives in London with her doctor husband, Tom, and their 2-year-old son, Finn. A former newspaper reporter who left her full-time gig to look after her son, she sees an opportunity to reinvigorate her freelance career when a woman shows up at her door insisting her daughter’s death—which Tash reported on before leaving the paper—was not an accident at all. The daughter, Sophie, was a 21-year-old nanny who, in alternating chapters with Tash, narrates the book (in Sophie’s case, she narrates the months leading up to her death).
At the same time as she begins to look into Sophie’s death, Tash is also yearning for a group of mom friends, and ends up getting close to three other mothers from Finn’s playgroup. All wealthier and more posh than Tash, the women quickly welcome her into their gargantuan homes. And while she’s grateful, the deeper she gets into her investigation, the more she realizes her new friends might not be as they seem—they knew Sophie.
Things aren’t adding up. There’s the discovery of Sophie’s phone that’s been fully wiped, anonymous threats warning Tash to give up the inquest and, eventually, another mysterious death in the community. The sections narrated by Sophie are similarly engrossing, as she goes from an innocent young nanny with a special connection to the child she cares for to a more obsessive, delusional woman for whom the boundaries between her work and personal lives becomes dangerously thin.
Faulkner is expert at building tension as the plot progresses; the closer Tash seems to get to uncovering what really happened, the more paranoid and urgent her sections feel. Along the way, the novel also explores class differences, postpartum depression and the stress that children can put on a marriage, all of which make it feel like more than your garden variety murder mystery.
Totally gripping from start to finish, The Other Mothers is an unputdownable thriller in the vein of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. And like the former, it would make for a very binge-worthy miniseries.