Title: The Ones You Trust
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2
Emma Cardwell, host of top-rating morning TV show Cuppa, is beloved by audiences and only occasionally stalked by crazy fans. She seems to have it all - fame, money, a gorgeous family - but when her tiny daughter disappears from daycare, Emma is faced with every mother's worst nightmare.
Is this a kidnapping, a product of her high profile, or is somebody out for revenge?
As the hours tick by and the pressure mounts, everything comes under scrutiny, including her own marriage, and Emma is forced to confront a terrifying question: can we trust the ones we love?
I love it when I come across books that wrap a current affairs topic into a delicious bun of mystery, finishing it off with a dollop of intrigue and a smear of blood to make the perfect fictional hotdog. Okay, so comparing a book to a hotdog may be stretching the friendship, but this book was just as binge-worthy as comfort food when you’re on the go and too tired to steam some broccoli. And being set in Australia, dealing with current Australian topics and featuring characters modelled on real Australian celebrities was a real treat. You don’t often find gems like this, and I felt like a fossicker striking gold when I accidentally stumbled across The Ones You Trust!
Overington has a real knack for plucking some hot topics straight out of news headlines and creating captivating fiction. Even though I was prepared to hate Emma for being the sort of woman who is always in the spotlight, beautifully made up, the centre of everyone’s attention, plus the sort of person who gives her children pretentious names like Seal and Fox-Piper (another character in the book made me laugh when they asked: are they running a zoo here?), I came to adore her in the end. Emma is smart, and she is savvy. She may be presenting herself exactly the way her breakfast show viewers want her to be – the responsible, ever well-presented wife and mother – but she is far from stupid. In her forties, and past her prime as far as television is concerned, Emma is fully aware that her days on “Cuppa” are numbered, and that she is likely going to be replaced soon by some sexy young single woman, like Cassie Clay from their rivalling show “Brew”. Because on TV, ratings are everything, and a lot of scheming and foul play goes on behind the scenes to make sure the stars get headlines – even if it’s negative publicity. Emma has been the target of the paparazzi before and knows the prize she has to pay for stardom – but now that she is a mother, this responsibility rests heavily on her shoulder. When her baby daughter is kidnapped from her daycare centre, Emma finds out how costly this price may be .....
If you live in Australia, the parallels of Emma’s world to Australian breakfast television are instantly obvious and relatable. I found it a real eye-opener to hear what goes on behind the scenes of the show, especially the tactics Cuppa’s publicity boss Maven employs to keep the show in the spotlight. When Fox-Piper goes missing, there is a myriad of suspects to choose from that may benefit from the huge media circus that ensues. I certainly had a few theories, but was still unprepared for the way Overington brought together all the strings in the end, and the final reveal. But even if your hunches are right, the power of this novel lies not in the mystery of Fox-Piper’s abduction, but in the events surrounding the event. I loved the everyday feel of the characters’ lives and events, which made this an extremely compelling read for me (I hate making comparisons but the characters and story did remind me a bit of fellow Australian author Liane Moriarty’s books).
Overington’s journalistic skills of tackling current affairs are instantly recognisable in her knowledge about “backstage” happenings, such as the political wheelings and dealings going on in the media world to ensure high viewer ratings. I applaud her for being able to present these in a fictional content without losing their punch – making me feel that I learned a few things along the way. I also appreciated her portrayal of Emma, a woman trying to “make it” in the media, where youth, beauty and the perfect body trump brains and courage, but where smart women like Emma and Maven still find a way to excel. Despite her initial apparent pretentiousness, Emma totally won me over in the end! Emma’s marital problems added an extra layer to the story that highlighted the pressure working mothers with small children are under these days.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of The Ones You Trust and sat up way too late into the night reading because I could not tear myself away. The characters were so well drawn that I felt instantly transported into their world, even though their realities are worlds apart from mine. A great read – I look forward to reading more from this author in future!
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.