By B. M. Carroll
Publisher/Year: Affirm Press/2023
A missing backpacker
A million-dollar reward
Ordinary people cracking under pressure
Busy parents Mia and Ryan were devastated when their former nanny, Irish backpacker Tara, tragically disappeared. But that was two years ago. Now they want to move on and focus on their son … so why are the police questioning them again?
When single mum Beth wakes up to a house burglary, she immediately suspects her abusive ex-husband. But when bad things continue to happen to Beth, her fear is overtaken by desperation and anger.
A dark secret binds these families together. How far will they go to protect their own?
Reviewer: Robyn Walton
This review was first published in The Weekend Australian in May 2023 and is reproduced with permission.
B.M. (or Ber) Carroll is a prolific and successful Australian author of Irish background. Her tenth novel, You Had It Coming (2021), did particularly well. The cover – with its accusatory, vengeful title in large white letters on a blood red ground and its endorsement by homegrown success Liane Moriarty — promised what Carroll delivered, a contemporary thriller suited to local sensibilities and soundly enough written to score shortlisting for two crime fiction awards, Sisters in Crime Australia’s Davitt for Best Adult Novel and the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction.
Plotting is Carroll’s key strength. Her unobtrusive prose proceeds with the confidence of an author who has determined the fundamentals of her story. If Carroll’s writing process involves much more uncertainty, evidence has been deleted by the time we encounter the finished text.
Credible, engaging characterisation is a second strength. In her new domestic thriller, The Other Side of Her, Carroll taps into readers’ felt knowledge of family bonds of affection and protectiveness, showing the mother-child bond in action in four variants.
I found this novel’s chief secondary characters especially believable and memorable. One is a 19-year-old Irish au pair who’d rather be out socialising than fulfilling responsibilities that are beyond her. The other is the school-aged boy in the au pair’s care; showing symptoms of ADHD, he is by turns lovable and exasperating, and his parents believe him to be in need of routines and vigilant supervision.
The crux of Carroll’s story is a human tragedy that was quickly followed by a cover-up. The narrative begins two years after that event, when the cover-up is threatened with exposure. Police inquiries and a reward offer prompt psychological disintegration and risky attempts to prevent the facts coming out.