Author: Alex Dahl
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Date of publication: (paperback) 1 October 2020
Format reviewed: advance copy
Number of pages: 448
It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover. Now it’s an abduction.
Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.
That was the last time she saw her daughter.
The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.
In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?
noun: play date; plural noun: play dates; noun: playdate; plural noun: playdates
- a social occasion arranged for children to play together.
Alex Dahl definitely plays with the reader in this exceptionally raw and taut psychological thriller in which an absolute mundane sleepover turns into a nightmare.
Kids always try and buy time to stay together and play. I used to do it, you probably did too. Parents organize playdates for their offspring to burn off some energy with friends and sometimes… Sometimes, sleepovers happen. For a night, you loosen the loving grip you have on your child’s tiny hand and let them taste freedom, fun, and sweets.
Elisa only hesitates for a bit when her daughter Lucia asks if she can have a playdate with a new girl at school. The mother is elegant and kind. The silent alliance between mothers works its magic and Lucia doesn’t come home with Elisa. Did I find it plausible? Frighteningly so! We rely on the idea that mothers can be trusted, don’t we? Why wouldn’t your kid have a good time under the watching eye of someone who, like you, pours her love into her child?
When the playdate transforms into a sleepover, Elisa is slightly worried, but Josie and her mom don’t wear balaclavas or guns! She has nothing else in mind that her daughter’s happiness.
Despite not getting much family time before the worse happens, it is easy to slip into the Blixes’ life. A dad, a mom, both working. A girl, a boy. A nice house. That could be you. Or me. At least at first glance.
I admire how the author starts by painting a generic landscape and creates a world that feels familiar enough so the reader enters without a second thought and with confidence, Slowly, she adds layer upon layer with a thin brush, building a more intricate picture with details that single out the family, while keeping them close enough to us so we never lose the connection she has created between her reader and the characters.
You might think the playdate is only the beginning, but the game lasts until the very last page. A dangerous, tortuous game of wringing hands and looks behind the shoulder, and the aching pain of missing the ones you love. The psychology behind this novel is top-notch, tearing at the seams of what we take for granted or what we gloss over. Split-moment decisions that dismantle your life piece by piece, leaving you raw and naked in the light.
Each chapter starts with the name of the character you’ll be travelling with for a few pages. This jump from one point of view to the other keeps the tension… or should I say tensions with a plural, at its highest, giving the reader the opportunity to experience a nightmare from different angles.
The setting adds a beautiful touch of cold and is perfect to immerse yourself a little deeper into the story.
Playdate is a breathtaking read about motherhood, but also past and present mistakes. It belongs up there with the most chilling novels which make you bite your nails and stay up past your curfew!
I loved it!
Pre-order your copy here!
I would like to thank Sophia at Midas for inviting me to read and review this novel as part of the book tour!
Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian. Born in Oslo and raised in both Norway and several other European countries she grew up in a multi-cultured family surrounded by artists and creative influences. She studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Norway, Switzerland, Bath and London. She has three children (two boys and a girl) and her eldest son almost died of meningitis as a newborn. Alex is the author of two other thrillers: The Heartkeeper and The Boy at the Door, which was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. Follow Alex on Twitter (@alexdahlauthor), Instagram (@authoralex) and Facebook (alexdahlauthor).
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