Book review: Someone Else’s Son by Sam Hayes

Do we really know our children...but perhaps more importantly, do we really know ourselves?

Monday, 25th October 2010, 7:00 am

Sam Hayes’ searingly honest and brutal new novel takes us into the heart of every mother’s worst nightmare, and it’s a painful and conscience-pricking experience.

For every parent who was too busy to answer a child’s call or too distracted to discover where they went and with whom, Hayes’ gripping story will make you sit up and think.

Because this is a tale of our times, a moving, disturbing and highly emotional rollercoaster full of hidden truths and shocking revelations.

Carrie Kent is the presenter of a Jeremy Kyle style TV reality show and there’s nothing she doesn’t know about how the other half live – their miseries, their tragedies, their hopelessness.

Her dismay at their chaotic existence is always tempered by her relief that she isn’t one of them...and, of course, their disasters make great TV for her thousands of fans.

‘Reality Check’ was her springboard to household fame and the live daily programme – precise, controlled and scheduled – suits her perfectly.

One phone call changes the way she sees the world...

Her precious teenage son is lying on a mortuary slab, stabbed to death within yards of his school gates in London.

Just one girl, a lonely, bullied friend of Max, witnessed what happened and she is refusing to talk. Why?

Suddenly Carrie realises that she lost touch with the real Max a while ago.

As she looks at the body of the 15-year-old boy she thought she knew, she notices for the first time the red tints in his hair and his silver skull earring.

By her side is Professor Brody Quinnell, Carrie’s ex-husband and father of Max. Brody is black, unconventional and blind. Their marriage didn’t last long after Brody lost his sight about nine years ago.

The battle to discover the truth about Max’s death will take them on a devastating journey not just into Max’s secret existence but also into their own past and the events that led to this dreadful moment...

Hayes is fast becoming one of our most talented thriller writers...no subject is out of bounds, no family dilemma outside her scope and no personal demon beyond her psychological comprehension.

Someone Else’s Child makes for the same uncomfortable reading as her other incisive novels but it also has her trademark sympathy and understanding written all over it.

Life, she knows, makes victims and villains of us all...

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)