Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son–he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.
The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents–or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.
They are done playing nice.
Playing Nice is an intriguing and thought-provoking read. I love the concept of this novel, which has been addressed before in other novels I’ve read, but here JP Delaney adds an extra element of suspense to what is already a very stressful situation: a couple – Maggie and Pete Riley – learn, out of the blue, that their 2 year old son Theo is not actually their son but another family’s. He was swapped in a mix up at the hospital when Theo and David, their biological son, were both born prematurely. The other family are well off and seemingly reasonable – but then things start to change…
I really liked the way Miles, the ‘other’ dad, is portrayed firstly as very reasonable but slowly reveals his true colours as things progress. Pete, in contrast, seems to be the perfect husband, but we know he has his faults, and his wife Maggie certainly has some secrets of her own, too! It feels like there’s plenty of half truths and concealed feelings involved, adding to the sense of mystery around what really happened.
Pete and Maggie’s son (but, as it turns out, not biologically) has an issue with being aggressive and self-centered around other people, something it becomes very obvious may be inherited from his biological father, Miles. This book really makes the reader consider the nature vs nurture debate – with Pete being such a soft, kind-hearted father, is Theo destined to turn out like Miles even with Pete’s influence, or can he be changed?
I’ll say no more about what happens, as a lot of the pleasure in this novel is realising what has been planned by certain characters all along, and sharing Pete and Maggie’s outrage – but then also wondering, could [this or that character] actually have had something to do with it? Or could that other person? This element of doubt really adds to the tension throughout the novel and left me completely hooked. There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence against characters which is explained really well – just when you wonder if anyone would actually think that, you find out that there was a reason a certain something was mentioned earlier in the novel. I like the way lots of seemingly loose details are tied up.
There are some parts of the story which require a certain level of suspending your disbelief, but not a lot because the majority is worryingly believable, and really makes you question what exactly you would do in Pete and Maggie’s situation…
What would I do? I’m still undecided…
Many thanks to the publisher, Quercus Books, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.