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Sunday, 19 July 2020

‘Motherlove’ by Thorne Moore


Published by Honno,
19 February 2015. 
ISBN: 978-1-909983-20-5 (PB)

A complex puzzle to untangle is a must in crime fiction, but for me any novel stands or falls on the characters. Thorne Moore has a sure hand on the tiller with both these essential factors. Motherlove isn’t a crime novel in the usual sense; there’s no murder, and the police investigation is very much a side issue. But there is certainly crime in the mix: baby-snatching, violence and drugs all have a part to play – though the greatest crime of all isn’t the illegal kind, but the damage people, especially families, do to each other. What was it Philip Larkin said about parents?

There are two timelines: the present, and twenty-two years ago. In the here-and-now strand, Kelly discovers that her flaky but lovable mother Roz isn’t her natural mother at all; Vicky learns that she is adopted; a woman called Mrs Parish haunts a local park. In the past, teenage drop-out Lindy is pregnant by her low-life boyfriend; Heather is about to give birth and doesn’t think she can cope with another child; and Gillian is waiting to hear if she will be allowed to adopt a child.

Kelly is a coper, and Roz isn’t. Vicky is training to be a doctor, but home is a run-down council estate and the house is shared by her nightmare grandmother. Mrs Parish shuns all company. Lindy lives in the moment and reinvents her squalid environment to fit with her dreams. Heather is being driven to desperation by an interfering mother-in-law. Gillian lives in a permanent state of war with her monstrous mother. Every one of them, and the supporting players as well, could jump off the page, they’re so real.

The same applies to the locations. From a basic but homely cottage on a smallholding to a beautifully appointed mansion via a former council house which is overcrowded but pleasant all but one sordid room, and an ordinary three-bed family home: they all enrich the pictures Moore draws of the families who live in them.

If the puzzle is your thing, you’ll enjoy the working out who belongs where, and how the mysterious Mrs Parish fits into it all: a tangled web of tortured and tortuous relationships, missing and mixed-up babies, which slowly unravels as young women search for where they really belong and damaged mothers seek forgiveness and closure for past misdoings. If like me you lean towards the characters, you’ll be enthralled by a story about real people (OK, fictional, but they feel real) which will keep you reading long past bedtime.
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Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, near London, but has lived in Pembrokeshire in West Wales for the last 35 years. She writes psychological crime, or domestic noir, with an historical twist, focusing on the cause and consequences of crimes rather than on the details of the crimes themselves. A Time For Silence, set in Pembrokeshire, was published by Honno in 2012. It was followed by Motherlove and The Unravelling, set partly in a fictional version of Luton. Shadows, published by Endeavour in 2017, is set in an old house in Pembrokeshire, and is paired with Long Shadows, which explained the history and mysteries of the same house from Medieval times to the late Victorian period.


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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.   

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