Published by Gallery Books on January 8, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Wow, what a roller coaster ride this book was for me! Heidi Perks new novel Her One Mistake is a psychological thriller that centers on one of every parent’s worst nightmares – a missing child. The story follows Harriet and Charlotte, best friends and mothers who have children about the same age. Harriet, a somewhat overprotective mother, has never let her four-year-old daughter Alice out of her sight prior to the day she allows Charlotte to take Alice to the school fair with her own children. Charlotte knows what a huge deal it is that Harriet is entrusting her with caring for Alice and vows to be worthy of the trust that has been placed in her.
When the unthinkable happens, however, and Alice goes missing at the school fair, Charlotte turns the place upside looking for her. When it becomes clear that Alice is no longer on school grounds, the police get involved and begin a search. They are quick to act because another young child had gone missing several months ago and still hadn’t been located so the fear that a predator may be on the loose in their community is all too real.
Charlotte is truly devastated. She is crushed, not just because Alice was in her care when she went missing, but also because she doesn’t even want to think about how distraught Harriet will be. This will surely spell the end of their friendship, even if Alice is found safe and sound.
After she finds out about her missing daughter, Harriet refuses to even speak to or see Charlotte. She and her husband blame Charlotte exclusively for what has happened, as do all of their mutual friends and apparently most people on the internet who are discussing the incident.
As the police investigation ramps up, however, secrets, lies and some ugly truths begin to surface. As we move closer to the truth about what has happened to Alice and who is responsible, it becomes clear that nothing is as it originally seemed.
Characters. I found both Charlotte and Harriet to be very sympathetic characters. As a parent, I know how devastating it would be to find out my child was missing, and I also know I would never forgive myself if I was entrusted with the care of one of my friends’ children and they went missing while in my care.
Not only was it easy to sympathize with these characters, but it was also very easy to imagine them as real people. They are flawed and messy and some of the problematic scenarios they find themselves in are of their own making. Part of the reason Charlotte is so widely blamed, for example, is because while she was supposed to be watching the children at the fair, she was also posting on her Facebook account. So everyone who follows her on there, knows she was at least somewhat distracted while the kids were playing.
Pacing and Perspective. I loved the pacing of Her One Mistake. It’s set up from the perspective of both Harriet and Charlotte and we hear from each of them as we go through the lead up to Alice going missing, the initial search and immediate fallout, the police investigation, and then the subsequent larger fallout as we get closer to the truth. Seeing first hand what is going through the minds of both Charlotte and Harriet not only had my own emotions all in knots, but it also painted such a full picture of what was going on by presenting it from both sides. The chapters were short but powerful, and I just flew through the pages because I needed to know the truth.
Suspense and Tension. Perks did a phenomenal job of ratchetting up the tension and suspense the further we get into the story. There was one character in particular I had a bad feeling about from the first moment they were introduced. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was that bothered me, but every time they appeared on the page, my skin crawled. I hated the character but loved that the author had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see if this character would turn out to be a monster or not.
Dark but Relevant Themes. And finally, I liked the wide range of themes Her One Mistake touched on. Be forewarned that this is in no way a fluffy read though. It explores some dark topics like abuse, isolation, deception, desperation, and there is a big focus on friendships, both in terms of how such a tragedy can strain or even ruin friendships, and in terms of fair weather friends who abandon you at the first sign of trouble.
I don’t have any real complaints about the novel at all, although I did feel that there were a couple of loose ends that I would have liked some closure on. I can’t speak to what they are for spoiler reasons, but if you read it, you’ll probably figure out the ones I’m referring to.
Overall, I found Her One Mistake to be a riveting and compulsively readable thriller. I binge-read it in just a couple of sittings and found myself immediately going to Goodreads to see what else Heidi Perks has written. She is definitely an author that I look forward to reading more from. If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty or Sally Hepworth’s domestic thrillers, I think Her One Mistake might be right up your alley as well.
What should have been a fun-filled, carefree day takes a tragic turn for the worse for one mother when her best friend’s child goes missing in this suspenseful, compulsively readable, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.
It all started at the school fair…
Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.
Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter….
This breathless and fast-paced debut—perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Couple Next Door—takes you on a chilling journey that will keep you guessing until the very last page.