The Mother

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 May 2019

Member Reviews

EXCERPT: I crawl back into bed and stare blindly up into the darkness. I won't sleep; not tonight, not for many nights to come. I doubt I'll ever sleep soundly again.

I start to shake. The adrenalin that brought me this far suddenly drains away and I begin to shiver so violently my muscles cramp. I press my fist against my mouth to still the chatter of my teeth. If I had anything left in my stomach, I would be sick again.

I've always thought of myself as a fundamentally good person. I'm not perfect, but I've spent a lifetime trying to do the right thing. I rescue spiders from the bath; I stop traffic to let a mother lead her row of ducklings across the road. A month ago I'd never have believed myself capable of killing a mouse, never mind another human being in cold blood.

But human nature had an infinite capacity to surprise.

We teach our children to fear dark alleys and strangers, but the real danger is much closer to home. You're more than twice as likely to be murdered by someone you love than by someone you've never met. If you're a child, it's nearer three times. If you want a reason to be scared, look in the mirror.

Evil doesn't have two horns and a tail. It's ordinary, just like me.

Those jealous husbands who bludgeon their wives to death, the women who smother their babies, the estranged fathers who lock their children in the car and connect the exhaust. Ordinary men and women, all of them.

Just like me.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: My name is Lydia. I’m 12 years old. I’m not an evil person, but I did something bad.

My name is Maddie. I’d never hurt my son. But can I be sure if I don’t remember?

With three children under ten, Maddie is struggling. On the outside, she’s a happy young mother, running a charity as well as a household. But inside, she’s exhausted. She knows she’s lucky to have to have a support network around her. Not just her loving husband, but her family and friends too.

But is Maddie putting her trust in the right people? Because when tragedy strikes, she is certain someone has hurt her child – and everyone is a suspect, including Maddie herself…

The women in this book are about to discover that looks can be deceiving… because anyone is capable of terrible things. Even the most innocent, even you.

This is the story of every mother’s worst fear. But it’s not a story you know… and nothing is what it seems.

MY THOUGHTS: I read Picture of Innocence in one sitting; horrified and appalled, I honestly felt like one of those people who stands around rubbernecking at an accident site. But I could not put this down. Chilling, twisty and addictive reading.

It is hard to say that I could enjoy a book that is as dark and disturbing as this - WARNING: there are plenty of triggers for those so affected - but I did. I could empathise with Maggie and her struggle with Noah, having had a baby who never slept and screamed with colic for hours on end. I was lucky. I also had a strong support network, but still I struggled.

And Lydia....oh, Lydia, what that child endured.

Know, going into this book, that you are heading for a train wreck. Be prepared for carnage. Be prepared to have your heart ripped out of your breast, to experience turmoil.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. I loved it.

5 stars

P.S. - this book appears to have renamed 'The Mother'.

THE AUTHOR: Writing as Tess Stimson, T J Stimson is the author of eleven novels, including top ten bestseller The Adultery Club, and two non-fiction books, which between them have been translated into dozens of languages.
A former journalist and reporter, Stimson was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Florida in 2002 and moved to the US. She now lives and works in Vermont with her husband Erik, their three children, and (at the last count) two cats, three fish, one gerbil and a large number of bats in the attic.
Picture of Innocence is T J Stimson's first foray into psychological thrillers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Picture of innocence by T.J. Stimson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This and other reviews are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my webpage
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It was good, it just didn't quite grab my full attention. I found it a bit slow, but the plot was good, the writing was good - it was all ok. I think I might have just read too many similar books of late.
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Wow, couldn't put this book down! I changed my mind countless times about what has happened and the reveal floored me. I really didn't see it coming and it actually chilled me. The last line of the book was particularly chilling. Can't wait to read from the author!
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance ARC .

My only regret was that I left it so long to read this book.  Three days later my heart still pounds when I think of this novel.

Maddie suffers from Post Natal Depression and is struggling to cope after the birth of her third child Noah.  She is confused and having black-outs that her GP assures her is linked to the medication.

But Noah dies and Maddie finds herself under investigation for his death.  She finds that she cannot trust herself, but it appears that she might not be able to trust her husband, Lucas either.  

In the dual plotline we meet Lydia who does a very bad thing.  Just who is Lydia and what link does she have to Maddie?

I had my hand over my mouth in parts of this story.  I didn’t figure correctly who Lydia was and when I did it was a headshaking moment.  I was also kept guessing on what happened to Noah until the end.  And am still shocked.

If you enjoy dark, twisty thrillers then this one is for you, and it definitely deserves its 5 stars.
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This book will have your heart racing and your mind captivated!  Every time you think you know, you don't. All you think is true gets blasted to blitherins.  This book is gripping and such a joy to read.  One of those books you have a hard time putting down....because you just know how it will end.  Or you thought you did.
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This was a decent read, but not my favorite. It was a little too weird for my taste. I really just couldn't wrap my head around the concept of it. Good idea, just maybe not well rounded out enough for me.
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Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy in return for an honest review
A very good read and one I can highly recommend to others. 
I could not put this down.
Thoroughly enjoyable with an amazing cast of characters that you cannot help but engage with.
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This very dark, chilling book quickly got under my skin. I could not bring myself to put it down. I needed to finish it and find out the definite truth behind this very disturbing mystery. And I say definite because I'd pretty much worked out the whodunnit from the start, but I was still utterly gripped even though I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen at the end. 

it's hard to explain why I enjoyed it so much because I shouldn't have really. Not with what happens and what it's about, but I was completely pulled in. I loved the way it was written with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, the 'mystery' chapters which actually surprised me when they came to light - I wasn't expecting that twist. The characters and how they could all be involved was done really well and the ending, even though I guessed it and I think most people did, was actually really good. The whole plot was clever and twisty and I loved that. 

It's one book I won't forget for a while. 5 stars from me.
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Wow. This book is incredible.

Gut wrenchingly sad, fraught with tension, a whirlwind of emotion. It's a proper who-dunnit with the most horrific tragedy at its' heart.

The family is just your normal, everyday family on the surface, but what will you find if you dig a little deeper? Could Maddie really be capable of the things they say she did?

I devoured this book in hours, getting lost in the pages, needing to turn them faster, desperate to know, but not wanting to at the same time.

Honestly one of the most gripping books I've read so far this year.
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Loved this book ... a really dark thriller. The plot was exciting and the characters were relatable. Highly recommended 

Many thanks to Netgalley and T J Stimson for the advanced copy of this book. I agreed to give my unbiased opinion voluntarily.
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I cannot get over this one.  Talk about a book hangover!!! This one had me all over the place and I still can't believe how it unfolded!!! Do you really know who your guardians is,  your mother,  and even your own daughter ...
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I do love a good psychological thriller, especially when it involves families and children. Picture of Innocence by TJ Stimson isn’t always an easy read as the family the story focuses on suffer the loss of their little baby.

The question is, how did baby Noah die?

It really isn’t all that simple, Mother Maddie is distraught and sure she didn’t hurt her son, but is it possible that she did? The husband wasn’t home when it happened and it seems he is the only one in the family that escapes being questioned and blamed.

And then there is Lydia, a young girl who did something terrible, but how does she fit into the story? And who did Lydia grow up to be?

I didn’t really like Maddie as a character, although I felt sorry for her she just didn’t seem to be that nice. Although then sometimes she was. I don’t know, but perhaps that is the point, given that this book makes us questions everyone and everything as we try and work out what is really going on.

Lydia is an interesting character, the abuse she suffered is not easy to read, but was that why she did what she did? Is evil born or is it made?

Picture of Innocence was nearly a brilliant book, it just didn’t quite get there somehow, which is a real shame. But I enjoyed reading it and I wanted to know what happened and how things were going to work out. Did I guess the ending? Well, kinda. I got some of it right but not all, it was clever and gave me something to think about and I love a book that does that. What would I do in that situation?

This book is well written, has well formed characters who are surprising and unpredictable. And I love how it made me think, are we born evil or does something make us that way?
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I cant't say I enjoyed the story. The synopsis says too much. So is a DNF for me.

But thank you anyway NetGalley for this ARC.
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So Maddie has 3 children and is on medication for post natal depression, when her baby Noah is found dead in his cot she is the prime suspect due to all her blackouts caused by the medication and her depression.


It disturbed me greatly and I was left thinking about the book days later, saying that it was also a very good read. So if you’re not too bothered about pretty disturbing and cold, creepy reads then this is one for you.

I’d defo read more from this author!
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One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
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A great thriller by the wonderful author, Tess Stimson.
Maddie is a mother of three children, the youngest, Noah is only ten weeks old. Having suffered postpartum depression after the birth of her second child, Maddie is very aware of her mental state. When Noah dies suddenly whilst he was sleeping, she wonders if she could have harmed him during one of her blackouts. But surely she would never hurt one of her children? Did Noah die of natural causes? If not, who else may have harmed him?
We also meet Lydia; a young girl who is being abused in her home. How do the two stories intertwine?
A well-written domestic thriller with many twists and sub plots that keeps you guessing until the end.
Thanks to NetGalley for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I almost passed this one by because of the title and the cover, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. Maddie has had her fair share of tragedy. While pregnant with her daughter, her husband was killed in a car accident. She's now remarried with a two year old son and a newborn baby boy. She's got a history of postpartum depression, and lately, she's been having blackouts. When baby Noah is found dead in her crib, she's terrified that maybe she had something to do with it and just doesn't remember. When the autopsy shows bruising on Noah, the mystery deepens, and the cops begin questioning Maddie. Could she have done this to her own child, or are there darker forces at work than Maddie could ever realize?

I had no idea where this novel was going, and loved being kept on my toes the entire time. I do agree with other reviewers that there are some potential giveaways in the publisher's blurb, so if it's not too late, definitely go into this one knowing as little as possible.
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Truly good literature, and by that, I mean the best of the very best, utilises its characters and plot-points to deftly explore wider societal themes. Things like personal identity, the institution of marriage, the politics of race and gender, or even the nature of the human consciousness - aspects of the human experience that transcend boundaries; ones that mean and say more than just Polly meeting and falling in love with Paul. 
I mean, yeah, she is going to do that and have a great time doing it, but what is the author saying by having them fall in love in this particular way? We often step back from a book and ask what it was saying and usually, if we think upon the question long enough, our answer relates to themes far more universal than one would first assume. 
I, for one, have been obsessed with the theory of nature vs. nurture (AKA is a person born evil, or does something in society make them that way?) since being rather young myself. I am a child of the United Kingdom and, although it happened two years before I was even born, the story of James Bulger has appeared over and over again in the background of my life.
That is why, as soon as I heard about Picture of Innocence, I knew that I needed to read it: children killing children is a topic that becomes more fascinating, and more horrifying, the younger the child gets. Society has had less time to get their claws in, after-all, and that causes all of the sociology vs. psychology bombs to go off in my brain.
But, the issue with this novel is that T.J. Stimson failed to properly construct the characters and the plot-points around the central ideas of the novel. Instead, Picture of Innocence felt like a thinly-veiled dissertation on the topic of nature vs. nurture, as opposed to a deft, complex and nuanced exploration. The characters were not vehicles to allow for greater understanding, they were cardboard cut-outs who kept stepping aside and taking a backseat to allow for the author’s page-long musings on the nature of evil. 
And, honestly, I just wish T.J. Stimson would have written a non-fiction book on the topic first; in an attempt, at least, to get some of the more overt rumination out of their head before sitting down and writing this one.
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Wow! Let me say it again for those in the back, WOW!!

This story had me so confused and uncomfortable. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish it. There were several times I thought I was going to have to put it away. 

I figured out what was going on, but kept questioning myself until the very end. 

For my first TJ Stimson, I’m quite pleased. Grab it, read it, enjoy the confusion!!
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“Picture Of Innocence” was captivating, gripping and full of twist and turns and it ticked all the right boxes for me. With a cracking ending and a fantastic cast of characters, it will appeal to anyone whose favours psychological thrillers. 

This book was so good that I will be adding T J Stimson to my list of newly discovered authors, for sure!

Thanks to NetGalley, Avon Books and the author, T J Stimson for my complimentary copy of Picture of Innocence. My honest review is entirely voluntary.
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