What happens when the grownups can’t play nice?

Review: Vivien Horler

Playing Nice, by JP Delaney (Quercus/ Jonathan Ball)

It has to be one of a parent’s worst nightmares: a man arrives at your front door to tell you he has DNA evidence to prove that your toddler son is actually his and he has yours – that the babies were swopped at birth in a hospital mix-up.

Pete Riley is an altogether nice guy, a former London journalist who has become a house husband while his wife Maddie has a high-powered job in advertising. Their son Theo, 2, is a bit of a wild boy who is in trouble at nursery school for hitting another child, but Pete adores him.

And then one day Miles Lambert, accompanied by a private detective, arrives on Pete’s doorstep with the devastating news. The detective obtained a sample of Theo’s DNA from his sippy cup, which had gone missing from his nursery school. There is no doubt that Theo is Miles’s son.

In his horror Pete says: “Jesus. You tested my son’s DNA without my permission – “ to which Miles replies: “Well, technically my son. But yes…”

By the time I got to this point in the book, which is on page 13, I was hooked and barely put the book down until I reached the end.

The two couples decide to be “civilised” about the situation and work out a solution without reference to the courts. But Miles turns out not to be what he seems. Very quickly – as could be expected – the relationship between the four adults deteriorates and lawyers have to be involved. And everything Pete and Maddie do seem to make their prospects worse.

JP Delaney is the pen name of a best-selling British writer called Tony Strong. This is Delaney’s fourth psychological thriller and it makes for an absolutely gripping read, one with a pervasive sense of menace. Or as a reviewer in the New York Times put it: “Delaney takes domestic suspense beyond its comfort zone.”

According to Wikipedia, Strong has another pseudonym, Anthony Capella, under which he writes well-received food-dominated romances set in Italy – he’s obviously a talented and versatile writer. I though Playing Nice was a terrific read, and now I want to read all Strong’s novels.




One thought on “What happens when the grownups can’t play nice?

  1. David Bristow

    How do you chose what to read? My pile is higher than a tall poppy, and I still do not have time for much fiction, much less thrillers. Maybe in a next life (I just started Lord Jim, been lurking on my shelves for 30 or more years).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *