Her One Mistake is a compelling, well-written, but somewhat disjointed and derivative novel. Using tropes that have become very familiar in the thriller genre like an unreliable narrator, a sudden shift in the story half-way through the book, and a jumping timeline, Her One Mistake feels too similar to other popular works to really hold its own.
A four-year-old girl goes missing from a school fair in a small English town, pitting two women and former close friends against each other. One woman, Harriet, is the missing girls' mother, and the other, Charlotte, is the woman who was supposed to be watching her when she disappeared. Their friendship destroyed and the town in a frantic uproar, both women are subjected to media scrutiny and judgment from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. As the case drags on and no new information surfaces about the girls' whereabouts, it becomes clear to both women that they made need each other’s help in finding the child.
While the first half of the story has a kind of slow-burn, tension-building feel to it, the second half, rather unexpectedly, is much more fast-paced and action-packed. Secrets are revealed, allegiances are questioned, and what at first seemed like a crime novels suddenly feels a lot more like a domestic thriller.
Her One Mistake has some surprising and entertaining twists, and the writing and storyline are solid enough to keep you reading throughout the novel. But the book ultimately just has too many similarities to Big Little Lies (a gossipy group of women), Gone Girl (a sudden twist halfway through the book) and The Girl On The Train (an unreliable narrator) to be truly original. While there's no harm in playing on popular themes and ideas, it felt like Heidi Perks was trying to incorporate too many overused twists and turns, and the result was a book that felt oddly disjointed and difficult to believe.
I did enjoy the portrayal of certain characters and relationships, especially that of Charlotte and Harriet prior to the disappearance of Harriet’s daughter. Charlotte is a character who's easy to root for. She's nice, interesting, and relatable, and I found her plight to be the most riveting part of the book. She misses her friend but also feels deeply saddened by the way she is being talked about by the press and by former friends. Her struggles to balance her life between her three children, her part-time job and her ongoing divorce are realistic and endearing.
Heidi Perks is definitely a strong writer, and I'm keen to see what else she writes because she has undeniable talent. Her One Mistake was just a bit too similar to everything else on the market. The thriller genre is so saturated with content that it’s hard to find something truly original and unique.