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Friday 13 September 2019

‘Only a Mother’ by Elisabeth Carpenter

Published by Orion,
27 September 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-8147-7 (PB)
Erica Wright has been buffeted by life's slings and arrows since childhood: stifled by an over-protective mother, abandoned while pregnant by her married lover, betrayed by her best friend and made to feel a pariah in the neighbourhood. But she has always believed in her son Craig, despite what everyone else, including the courts, thought of him. Now Craig is about to be released on parole after serving seventeen years of a life sentence; he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and is still suspected of killing another girl though the police couldn't prove it.

After his release, Craig turns out to be his own worst enemy, staying out overnight, consorting with his shady friends, getting involved with drugs. And then another girl goes missing and the police are on the warpath...
Elisabeth Carpenter's two previous novels revealed a talent for getting under the skin of damaged souls like Erica: a skill which ramps up to a high level in Only a Mother. Consequently, it's not an easy book to read; it's so well done that I had to keep putting it down and taking a few deep breaths. 

Carpenter takes pity on the reader to some extent, and interleaves Erica's heartrending first-person chapters with sections seen through the perspective of Luke, a local paper journalist who is both keen to make a name for himself and sensitive to the feelings of his subjects. Between them, Luke and Erica slowly uncover the truth about the small, ambiguous details which resulted in Craig's conviction, and eventually put together what really happened seventeen years ago.

The plot unfolds at a steady pace, and justice triumphs at the end; but this is very much a novel that focuses on the characters: their feelings and motivations, and what has happened to make them the way they are. It's hard to know how anyone would react to the sad and challenging circumstances Erica has found herself in, but Elisabeth Carpenter brings her to life in a way that makes us believe this is how it could be. Once again, she hardly puts a foot wrong, and presents a world that wrenches at the emotions as well as a storyline with enough twists, turns and dramatic moments to hold the attention of the most avid mystery reader. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2008. Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. She currently works as a book keeper.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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