By Ekta R. Garg
November 11, 2020
Release date: November 12, 2020
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
When an afternoon lunch ends in a tragic death, the police officer on the case will have to confront six couples about what they did or didn’t see. As the officer tries to press people for information, her instinct raises the alarm on the fact that the death was more than just an accident. Author Claire McGowan brings together an interesting cast of characters in a plot that doesn’t quite gel in her newest book The Push.
At the age of 38, Jax is expecting her first child with her boyfriend, Aaron, who is 24. Jax has received a lot of flak from her mother and whispers in public about the apparent age difference, and she pretends not to care. But of course, deep down, she does.
She’s going to handle this like an adult, though, so she signs up for a prenatal class with Aaron where they meet five other couples who are expecting. Well, four couples and a woman, Kelly, who offers the explanation that her boyfriend really wanted to come but couldn’t make it. Jax can’t help but feel a turn of sympathy for Kelly who looks young and scared.
The attitude of Nina, the woman leading the classes, doesn’t help ease Kelly’s anxiety. In fact, Nina seems to be doing a fantastic job of elevating everyone’s fears, real or imagined, about what childbirth and rearing are all about. If Jax was apprehensive before, she’s downright worried now. Aaron tries to comfort her, but because he grew up in the foster system he has no frame of reference for what a stable family is.
It doesn’t help that recent events make her feel like she’s being targeted for some unknown transgression. Someone messes up her files at work. Another time the milk bottles she and Aaron have delivered are broken and the glass strewn over their front doorstep. Then mysterious emails show up at work that lead her supervisor to recommend taking maternity leave early.
When her pregnancy puts her health at risk, the doctor tells her she has no option but complete bedrest. The prenatal group is Jax’s only contact with other adults, yet she hates going there too. Monica and Ed, the upper class, upper crust, couple of the group set Jax’s teeth on edge. When Monica invites everyone to a post-delivery barbecue at her house, the only reason Jax accepts the invitation is because she doesn’t have the energy to say no. All of the members of the group show up at Monica’s house, and within hours one of them is dead.
The police come to investigate, and DS Alison Hegarty knows in her gut that the victim didn’t fall off the second-story balcony. Someone pushed the person off. As Alison starts her investigation, all the while navigating her feelings about her own infertility, she realizes all of the group members had something to hide. The pushback she receives from her commanding officer pressures her to use her wits and old-fashioned detective work to get to the heart of what really happened and why.
Author Claire McGowan gives readers insight into a variety of character types yet struggles to make them seem like well-rounded, three-dimensional people. Competing mysteries might make readers forget which one should take precedence: the attacks on Jax or the death at Monica’s house. The narration gives the sense that both are important and connected while also trying to remain coy about it.
The biggest mistake in the plotting comes in giving readers information the characters don’t have. Once readers find out key pieces of the mystery, the rest of the story becomes an exercise in patience to wait for the characters to catch up. Also, the handling of certain scenes will inadvertently reveal the truth behind some red herrings, making the book much less fun to read.
Despite all this, the construction of the plot will compel some readers to stick with it to the end. For those who want a fast mystery to read that doesn’t require a lot of personal investment, this might be good to pick up. For everyone else, I recommend readers Borrow The Push.