My thanks go out to the lovely Vicky, representing publisher Aria Fiction, and the ever efficient team at NetGalley, for helping to make this review possible and for including Fiction Books in the Blog Tour! You can find a full first half Blog Tour schedule below, so be sure to visit some of the other participants to discover more shared extracts, reviews and author guest posts.
A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing school, she loves to write about the personalities hiding behind the masks we wear every day, whether beautiful or ugly.
Now a company director, what spare time Dawn has, is spent writing domestic noir fiction, chasing good intentions, contemplating how to get away with various crimes and misdemeanours, and immersing herself in fictitious worlds.
She lives in London with her husband, two daughters and a British bulldog called Geoffrey.
Keep up with all Dawn’s latest news at her website
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“My fourth novel, The Pact, is now out in the publishing wild and I’m thrilled how well it has been received so far. It tells the story of Maddie, separated from her husband and desperate for a family of her own, and Jade, a single mother who lives upstairs. The two women are polar opposites in personality. One is loud, spiky and abrasive; the other quiet, unassuming and living under the weight of her past. And yet, despite their differences, they strike up an unlikely friendship. So when Jade suggests one drunken evening that she will kill Maddie’s ex if Maddie kills hers, Maddie shrugs it off as a joke. Because it was a joke, wasn’t it?
In all of my books I have delved into the minutiae of relationships, what makes people tick, manipulation and the different masks we wear – and this novel is no different. It is chock-full of toxic relationships, hidden truths and exploitation. Everyone has an agenda – and some are not as innocent as they seem. Furthermore, I wanted to explore the idea of whether it is manipulation if you know it is happening and if it suits your own goals. How much are you prepared to take in order to grasp onto that trophy at the end? And how far is too far?
The inspiration for the novel came from a news article I read one day about a character very similar to Jade. I wanted to understand the motivation behind her actions and the dangerous single-mindedness that had brought her to this point in her life, all in stark contrast to the desperation Maddie was feeling. We find ourselves at many crossroads in our lives and the decisions we make on which path to choose says a lot about us. Sometimes, before we know it, we have travelled so far down a dangerous road that we have run out of room to turn around.
And then there’s the idea of the perfect murder and how to get away with it…
I hope The Pact makes the reader feel a range of emotions – shouting at the page in frustration; shaking your head in anger; even shedding a few tears of compassion. You may not like all of the characters, but I hope they stay with you long after you finish the book.
And be careful what you agree to after a few glasses of wine…”
No longer can she run from the past that’s been haunting her. The past has destroyed her future.
In a new flat, trying to start a new life, Maddie meets Jade and her young son, Ben. All too swiftly Maddie finds the dark thoughts whirring through her brain. But Jade’s different, she loves Ben, doesn’t she?
As the two women begin to open up about their exes over a few glasses of wine, Jade conjures a plan, a pact. She’ll kill Maddie’s if Maddie kills hers. Laughing it off, Maddie returns to her normal life.
But what if it wasn’t a joke at all…
“The box was heavy in her arms as Maddie Lowe slid the key into the front door and pushed it open. The door swung back hard against the wall, leaving a dirty mark on the crisp white paint that she would only notice later. A bruise on the wall marking the day she moved in.”
MEMORABLE LINES FROM THE BOOK
“Jade had a brittle sense of humour that had had Maddie in fits of giggles all night. Her tongue was so sharp it could clip a hedge and she was quick to share her strong opinions on most things, like she had a childish need to show off for her new friend.”
“Gemma’s tastes may be material, but they were easy needs to meet. Maddie wanted something he couldn’t provide – and for a man who liked to fix problems, that became untenable. If only he could combine the best of both women into one, he would be a happy man.”
“Lately she was starting to realise that she had spent too much time worrying about what others thought of her and had lost sight of who she was, what she even liked. She had a vague recollection of herself before she met Greg, but then she’d put on a fancy dress costume of the perfect wife, with the sensible clothes and controlled mannerisms, and eventually found she couldn’t take it off again, like the zip had got stuck and there was no one there to help her out of it.”
“But she couldn’t be angry at Greg, mostly because she didn’t feel much other than sadness when she thought about her marriage. The whole experience of it was cloaked in a thin, grimy layer of disappointment like a lingering bitter aftertaste from a pill. There had been so much promise that it had left a gaping hole when it all collapsed in on itself. All of it had engulfed Maddie for so long that she felt hollow. It took a moment to fall apart, but a lifetime to pick yourself up from it.”
“She was faulty, broken, defective. Yes, she’d been here before. The dull, numbing stillness that followed another shock, another disappointment, another sadness. She could feel herself settling into autopilot, letting her mind take over the logistics while her heart scrambled to repair itself. Except this time, she didn’t think she would come back from it.”
“I’ll kill yours, if you kill mine”
Oh Yes! This was definitely my kind of book. A great story, written in a no nonsense way, yet at the same time full of surprises and a few red herrings, with twists and turns right until the very end!
This disturbing storyline was ideally constructed and developed, from my preferred reading point of view. The opening chapter more or less set the scene and the backstory for lead protagonist, Maddie. The storyline was slow burning, full of detail yet giving nothing away, descriptive and well narrated in the moment by Maddie predominantly, together with some small interruptions from Jade and a few short paragraphs of introspection and retrospection by Maddie, when missing pieces of the backstory jigsaw are fitted into place. The ending was quite satisfying and what I might have hoped for, although the means by which it happened was totally unexpected.
‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’ – just ask Maddie!
On its own, this wasn’t a particularly complex story, however the many added layers, which were peeled back intermittently, really ramped up the suspense level giving it great depth and staying power. The intense and unrelenting psychological twists really played with my mind, let alone with those of the characters, to the stage where I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
The two main protagonists were both female and whilst neither they, nor any of the supporting cast, were particularly likeable characters, or easy to become invested in or connect with, it was great fun trying to unravel the complex, multi-layered personalities, in which the author had wrapped them up so neatly.
The atmosphere was constantly crackling with tension and no matter where Maddie went, she always seemed to be stressed beyond belief about one thing or another, as her thinking and emotions were being pulled this way and that, by other people’s unrelenting pressure. Through the well written, gripping and descriptive narrative and dialogue, I could almost feel how highly strung Maddie was and that she was constantly on edge. Even when on a couple of occasions she had a bit too much to drink, her actions seemed way over the top and a bit too exuberant to be spontaneous! The incessant intensity with which Maddie filled her life, along with her slightly annoying naivety, was managed with total authority and confidence by an author who knew just which buttons to push to get the reaction she needed, without having to labour a point.
The notion of extended and unconventional family units was explored in a realistic and authentic way, although not one which made me feel overly comfortable, as Maddie’s obsession with children whilst disturbing and troubling, was also profoundly touching and emotionally draining, as it was the only thing she thought about, day in, day out. For any one person to have endured both the physical and mental anguish which Maddie had, would surely have wrecked even the strongest and most stable of relationships, but her estranged husband Greg, wet blanket that he was, really did ‘want his cake and eat it’. Three people and a baby in one marriage was never going to work, surely!
Jade just had a scheming disturbing and very distorted mind and view on life. Always out to use someone until they had served their useful purpose and then on to the next unsuspecting victim, even if murder and blackmail was the only route to her achieving her goal. Having said all that, it did take me quite a while to cotton on to her selfish motives and I actually became quite invested in her sob story, until the penny dropped. The only consolation was that Maddie took even longer than I did to work it out, but boy! how the tide turned once she realised she had been used, and as a consequence, her entire future might have been changed, as she might have been complicit in ruining so many other precious lives.
The relatively small cast of supporting characters really were an eclectic, multi-faceted bunch, although when I stopped to unpick the story before writing this review, I realised that they all had their own roles to play in Maddie discovering her true worth, the values that really mattered to her, and the knowledge that she was more than able to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions as an independent individual. The characters all seemed to operate in their own little bubbles, with little interaction and dialogue between them, leaving Maddie and Jade to take centre stage, yet they were all pivotal to the storyline in various stages, as it developed and unfolded.
Conventional as I probably am, this disconnected and slightly quirky set-up, was one giant time bomb just waiting to go off and when it did explode, as for my thinking it was always doomed to, the fallout was far-reaching and for some, permanent! Murder, accidental death, suicide – The bodies were piling up, but who would the winners and losers be?
A Kindle download of this book for review and promotional purposes, was kindly gifted to me by the publisher, with the download being facilitated by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!