The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland begins with a lot of questions with lots of proposed answers. Therefore, readers have a lot of suspicions about who is telling the truth. Tess arrives home one night to find a small boy in her kitchen. She had used her keys to enter the front door so how did it come about that a young boy was drawing pictures on her kitchen table? How did he get in? According to the young boy, Tess knew him as Harry because she was, after all, his mom. The problem was that Tess had no children, at least no living ones.
Who could Tess call at a time like this? She would call Scott, her husband. Although separated, she still called him her husband, considered him a friend, and was sure that he still loved her. It was just a matter of time before they would be together again. He would come over to help her and they would call the police. She couldn’t call the police on her own as she felt she had no credibility with the police because of a child kidnapping allegation made against her a few years before. The allegation was false, of course.
Tom arrived to help but felt put out about receiving calls for help from Tess. Readers will instantly become aware, long before Tess, that the two might never reconcile. As far as Tom is concerned, Tess has probable mental problems. Tess even concedes that reality as she sees it might not be wholly accurate.
The real problem, however, is Harry. Who is this kid? Where did the police take him? Where did he end up? And why does Tess embark on a crusade to answer all these questions?
I felt this novel was more plot driven than character driven. I thought the most interesting character was Tom rather than Tess. Following his character, I even thought this might be a novel involving a complex scheme of gaslighting. Tom was interesting up to that point. When it became apparent this was not the case, Tom became a bit boring but by that time the plot was moving along briskly so I was interested enough to finish the story.
I was not surprised by the ending but I was interested in how it came about; that kept me reading. This was an interesting but not complex story but it had the basis to be one (note gaslighting comment above). This story was more of a comfort read, not a gripping psychological thriller as the subtitle claims. I gave this three Amazon stars for lack of promised complexity.