By A. Bates.
Becky thinks she has landed the ideal summer job, looking after Mrs Nelson’s toddler, Devon, on a lovely, secluded island. The only condition is that Becky must keep a low profile. Mrs Nelson has confided that she is hiding Devon from kidnappers, who wish to hold him to ransom. Nevertheless, such concerns do not prevent Mrs Nelson from leaving her son with Becky for hours on end whilst she visits the nearby tourist town on undisclosed errands. Stuck inside the cabin all day, every day, Becky longs for some time off. Finally granted an evening to herself, she meets her mysterious neighbour, Cleve, who offers to show her round the town. Cleve is definitely odd, but Becky is attracted to him and she welcomes the company. Whilst things might be looking up in her social life, her job is becoming increasingly strange. Becky decides to confront Mrs Nelson about the persistently ringing phone in her employer’s off-limits bedroom, and the generally bizarre set-up the three of them are in. On discovering the truth about Mrs Nelson’s past, Becky realises that she will have to risk her own safety if she is going to protect Devon from serious danger.
Mother’s Helper is a fairly short novel, with a straightforward plot and few characters. However, what should be a fast-paced thriller is actually a dull account of Becky doing housework, looking after the baby and moaning about being bored. The latter sensation, we can easily identify with. But it’s difficult to have sympathy for a protagonist who has no sympathy for anyone else, and is so judgemental about her employer and new friend.
With its one red herring, and easily guessable ‘twist’, Mother’s Helper completely misses the mark as a mystery. There are a couple of careless plot holes which cannot be overlooked: Becky not noticing that Cleve knows the truth about her employment situation, when he supposedly believes Mrs Nelson to be her aunt; Devon disappearing from the action near the end, with a hastily made up explanation a few pages later. And the ending, which sees Becky voluntarily putting herself back into a dangerous situation, is particularly weak. It prolongs the action, but in a pointless and drawn out way. I’d already checked out.
Whilst a persistently ringing telephone might be annoying, prank phone calls are only scary if you actually answer. Even if there was a sense of threat, we are presented with such unlikeable main characters, that there is no point at which we ever care what happens to them. Mother’s Helper is not just dull, it also barely qualifies as horror and makes no effort to satisfy fans of the genre. As such, it earns the lowest possible fear factor rating of…