Review: Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

Title: Playing Nice

Author: J.P. Delaney

Published: July 28th 2020, Quercus

Status: Read July 2020, courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

Playing Nice is a taut and thrilling tale of domestic suspense by J.P. Delaney, a pseudonym of Ugandan born British author, Tony Strong who has also written popular novels under the name Anthony Capella.

“It was just an ordinary day.”

When Pete Riley answers a knock at his door one ordinary day, the last thing he expects to be told is that his two year old son, Theo, is in fact, not his. Brandishing a DNA test, Miles Lambert announces that biologically, Theo is his son, and presumably the boy in his care, David, is therefore Pete’s, a result of a hospital mix-up.

Miles is quick to assure Pete, and his partner Maddie, that he and his wife, Lucy, want only what is best for the boys, and agree that each child should remain with their presumed parents, but for the families to spend time together. Pete and Maddie are relieved that the Lambert’s seem to be an amicable and generous couple, and then the veneer of civility begins to slip…

Unfolding from the alternating perspectives of Pete and Maddie, Playing Nice explores a rare and complicated situation, with the addition of a devious twist. To discover the child you have loved and cared for since birth is not your own, and then to be faced with losing not only him, but also any connection with your biological child, is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Pete and Maddie are quite naive to begin with, trusting that Miles and Lucy are who they seem to be, yet there are hints that Miles in particular is telling them only what they want to hear. This becomes blatantly obvious when the Riley’s are abruptly served with papers demanding full custody of both boys. I was literally gritting my teeth with the tension, my level of frustration with everyone, including the Riley’s, growing exponentially as Miles effortlessly manipulated every situation to his advantage, leaving Pete and Maddie in danger of losing everything, including their lives.

Within the story Delaney explores the question of nature vs nurture, Theo, for example, has behavioural issues which could stem from a hereditary trait. The author also challenges parenting stereotypes with Pete as the stay at home dad and the more nurturing partner of the relationship. While typically men are considered to prize the biological link to their offspring, it’s Maddie who feels the instinctive connection to David. It’s also Maddie, who exhibits behaviours more commonly ascribed to male partners.

The characters in Playing Nice are well realised, flawed to a lesser and greater extent though all essentially familiar, except for Miles. Manipulative, vindictive, and merciless, Miles is a psychopath, who is incapable of ‘playing nice’.

Gripping, fascinating and disturbing, I found Playing Nice to be a well-paced and cleverly crafted novel.


Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Indiebound

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne - Books of My Heart
    Aug 06, 2020 @ 11:24:59

    Excellent review! This sounds amazing but heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. susanblogginboutbooks
    Aug 08, 2020 @ 02:51:32

    This premise is so fascinating and it sounds like the author does it justice. I’ve never read anything by Delaney, but I’m definitely going to get myself a copy of this book. Sounds so good!


    Liked by 1 person


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  4. Laurel-Rain Snow
    Aug 10, 2020 @ 02:15:06

    Great review! I loved this book and hated Miles…I kept hoping that he would be found out for the evil man that he was.

    I was interested in discovering the alternate names for the author.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Helen Murdoch
    Aug 10, 2020 @ 10:20:03

    What a nightmare to discover, but I wouldn’t trust the other man to be truthful!

    Liked by 1 person


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