The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

April 18, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): Sally Thorning is watching the news with her husband when she hears an unexpected name—Mark Bretherick. It’s a name she shouldn’t know, but last year Sally treated herself to a secret vacation—away from her hectic family life—and met a man. After their brief affair, the two planned to never meet again. But now, Mark’s wife and daughter are dead—and the safety of Sally’s own family is in doubt.


  • The publisher summary was probably the best part of this book. Seriously, doesn’t that snippet sound like something you’d want to read? I know I was taken in by it. Just as they say don’t judge a book by its cover, I should know better than to judge one by its summary.
  • Oh, I just remembered that I liked the diary entries, too. They provided a really stark image of motherhood, one that rarely makes it into books. Most of my acquaintances do nothing except rave about their children and brag about how they already fit back into their apple bottom jeans, but I know a lot of women must feel the way Amy’s mother did. It was kind of neat to see the true underbelly of the “perfect family” here.

Disliked (with possible spoilers):

  • Where to start? Hmm, how about with the fact that the plot made very little sense at all. So there were four bodies initially. The killer didn’t originally kill his wife and daughter (the daughter committed the ghastly crime of electrocuting herself and her mother because she was bratty and simply didn’t understand what she was doing), but the killer did kill Geraldine Bretherick and her daughter Lucy — just because Lucy once overheard Amy saying she wanted to kill her mother. Huh???
  • Why did William Marks (sorry, I couldn’t be bothered to remember his real name) want to kidnap Sally Thorning and impregnate her in the first place? Because he was seeking some unattainable perfect family? That was another thing that didn’t make sense. If he was as unhinged as all that, wouldn’t he have acted out long before Amy killed her mother? After all, he would have known that the mother hated being a mother, right? That wouldn’t have fit with his perfect little scenario, so surely he would have wanted to change that.
  • Sally Thorning was about as unlikable a main protagonist as I’ve encountered in a while. She was incredibly annoying — and also pretty stupid too. I mean, who in their right minds would exert all that energy escaping from a house where she’d been held captive for days and then GO BACK IN just so she could take a shower???? WTF??!! She thought William was gone for good, but she certainly couldn’t have been sure of that. Any normal person would have gotten the hell out of there and worried about showering later on.
  • The detectives were annoying, too. I usually like police procedural stuff, but for some reason Sophie Hannah decided to focus more on office politics and office romances than on the actual detective work. All those breaks from the main action really made the book drag on and on.
  • “Find and Replace?” Really? That’s how the detectives figured out who the murderer was? Because the guy used the Find and Replace function in Microsoft Word to change some names? Uh huh. I didn’t even get what mistake the killer was supposed to have made. I read the section a couple of times, but the leaps the detective made were beyond me, I guess.


As I said, I was suckered by the description on the back cover of The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah. It sounded like it would be a terrific, suspenseful book, but the outlandish plot twists, coincidences, and character motivations ruined any chance I had of actually liking this thing. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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