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Extract: Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a tense, gripping psychological thriller by Paula Daly that takes a look at family life and the evil that can lie beneath the surface.

What if your best friend’s child were to disappear, and it was all your fault? This is exactly what happens to Lisa Kallisto – overwhelmed working mother of three – one freezing December in the Lake District. She takes her eye off the ball for just a moment and her whole world descends into nightmare. Her best friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter Lucinda has gone missing and now, devastated by this and publicly blamed, Lisa sets out to right the wrong.

But as she begins peeling away the layers surrounding Lucinda’s disappearance, Lisa learns that the quiet town she lives in isn’t what she thought it was, and her friends might not be who they appear to be, either.

Read on for an extract from Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?
Paula Daly

He arrives with time to spare. Reverse-parking, he gets out and the cold hits him. Slapping him hard in the face and stinging his skin. He smells good. Expensive.
        He’s parked a few hundred yards from the school at the viewing point. On a clear day there’s an uninterrupted vista across the lake, over to the mountains beyond. In better weather there’d be an ice-cream van, Japanese tourists taking photographs. Not today, though. Not with the clouds so low in the sky, and not with the autumn darkness fast approaching.
        The lake water reflects the trees. It’s a muddy, coffee-coloured brown – soon to be slate-grey – and the air is still.
        Maybe he should get a dog, he ponders briefly. Something friendly – a spaniel perhaps, or one of those white, fluffy things. Kids love dogs, don’t they? It might just be worth a go.
        He checks for signs of life but for the moment he’s still alone. It’s just him, watching. Sizing up the scene, weighing up the risks.
        Risk assessment is part of his job. Mostly he just makes stuff up, putting down on paper whatever the fire-safety officer wants to read. Along with a few extras, though, enough to give the im pression that he actually gives a shit.
        This is different. This, he really does need to look at carefully. Because he knows he can be rash. He knows he can be lacking in the necessary thoroughness and can end up paying for it later. He can’t afford for that to happen now. Not with this.
        He checks his watch. Tons of time before he’s expected elsewhere. That’s the great thing about his job, it leaves plenty of time for this other . . . interest.
        That’s how he’s thinking of it at the moment, just an interest. Nothing serious. He’s figuring things out, seeing if he likes it. Kind of the way one might do with evening classes.
        ‘Come along for a couple of sessions of calligraphy before you pay in full.’
        ‘Conversational French might not be for you, after all.’
        He knows his interest can wane quickly, but that’s what makes him successful, because don’t all successful people have a low boredom threshold?
        As a child he’d been told he couldn’t stick at anything, couldn’t sit still and focus on one thing at a time. He can still be like that so he needs to check before committing. He wants to be sure. He wants to be certain he’s going to follow it through before taking the first step.
        He checks his watch. Three forty. They’ll be here soon – the first few making their way home.
        He gets back inside his car and waits.
        His plan is to gauge his reaction. See if what he thinks will happen does happen. Then he’ll know. Then he’ll know for sure.
        When he spots them his pulse flickers. Each is coatless, hatless, wearing shoes inappropriate for the season. The first to pass in front of the car are a couple of girls. Dyed hair, sulky expressions, big, shapeless legs.
        No, he thinks, that’s not it. That’s not what he wants at all.
        Next are two groups of boys. Fourteen- or fifteen-year-olds. Slapping each other across the backs of heads, laughing at nothing. One of them glances his way before sticking two fingers up. This makes him laugh. Harmless enough, he thinks.
        That’s when he sees her.
        She’s alone. Walking purposefully. Spine erect, with short, neat steps. She’s around twelve – though she could be older. She might just be young-looking for her age.
        She passes in front of the car and again his pulse quickens. He feels a shiver of pleasure flash through him as, momentarily, she slows. She’s hanging back from the group of boys, unsure of what to do. He watches rapt as her face changes, watches as it takes on a determined expression, and at once she makes the bold decision to overtake.
        Half skipping, half running, she flits off the pavement and picks up her pace. She’s fawn-like! he thinks, totally delighted by her. Her slim ankles are moving quickly as she pulls away from the group.
        He glances down and sees that his palms are wet. And it’s then that he knows for sure. Smiling, he realizes he had not been wrong to come here.
        He drops down the sun visor and checks his reflection. He looks exactly the same as he did ten minutes ago, but marvels at how different he feels. It’s as if all the pieces have clicked together, and he understands, perhaps for the first time, what people mean when they say, ‘It just feels right.’
        Turning the ignition, he flicks on the heated seat and, still smiling, heads towards Windermere.

Find out more about Paula Daly’s journey to publication here.

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