Fresh Blood

Name: Camilla Noli

Title of Book: The Mother’s Tale

'An enthralling and yet terrifying read...'

A mother cradles her child against her warm breast, whispering sweet nothings to her infant, offering soothing tones to make their eyelids droop and send their offspring to sleep. But for some mother’s this is simply an act – for inside they are screaming, shouting for sleep that has been deprived them; for five minutes to themselves without the cry of a child demanding to be held or given attention or expecting their demands to be met without argument from their parent.

And so it is for the unnamed mother in this harrowing tale who secretly wishes her daughter, Cassie, to be silent; who sees the product of her husband and herself as a succubus, a demanding little madam who fights her mother all the way and sucks the very life essence from her. But more importantly, she is taking away the love from the only man she desires – her husband. Without that her daughter will have everything and she nothing. And that cannot be allowed.

The Mother’s Tale is an extremely harrowing and uncomfortable read. The subject matter is so shocking that this book’s publication date had to be put back by a year due to the Baby P horror that gripped and sickened a nation, indeed the world. One wonders how on earth a mother could torture or even kill her child – but Noli does come up with a persuasive argument as to how her anonymous mother reaches the end of her patience – how envy and jealousy can play such a large part in someone’s psyche when emotions are raw and due to sleep deprivation, all rationality is thrown out of the window.

What Noli has managed to do with her book is to make the reader feel, despite the mother’s terrible actions, some sense of grief at her emotional state and not just sign her off as ‘evil’. Don’t get me wrong – there are evil people out there who harm their child, but there are others who get stuck in a quagmire, who can’t cope and don’t have the necessary network support many parents take for granted.

This is Noli’s first book and she has to be commended for tackling such a controversial subject matter. The mother is selfish and jealous but once you meet HER mother then you can see how such a poisoned chalice has been passed from mother to daughter. You have to give Noli credit for making you feel you want to save this woman despite wishing to also condemn her for what she has done in equal measures. Noli’s writing is sparse but certainly not lacking. An enthralling and yet terrifying read – one that, even as a man, will stay with me for a long time to come

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I don’t try to write in a particular genre. My writing seems to be an amalgam on what is on my book shelves: crime fiction and fact, classic literature, great South American magic realist writers, topic driven writing and lots of factual writing that deals with human psychology and behaviour. I like writing that explores the extremes of human behaviour and experience, particularly when on the surface those people inhabit a seemingly ordinary world.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I probably tend to prefer series only because you get to know the characters. Obviously Agatha Christie, and Rex Stout (both of whom I grew up reading as a child), and more contemporary series such as the Rebus and Dexter series, and works by Australia’s very own Michael Robotham. Having said that I have read some series that I believe have definitely outlived their characters and should be put out of their misery! I have also enjoyed Linwood Barclay’s and Harlen Coben’s standalone works.
3) Child abuse is a very strong and controversial subject. What made you decide to tackle such a huge subject in your first book?
The subject chose me! I had very young children at the time, I couldn’t imagine how someone could hurt their own vulnerable, trusting children, yet at the same time I understood how frustrating parenting can be and how sometimes you are pushed to almost your limits.
4) Everybody in the book has a name but the mother is left anonymous. Is it significant that the mother is never given a name?
I quite literally couldn’t name her. Every name I considered came with connotations and in the end she is a character who wouldn’t allow herself to be constrained by anything as banal as a name.
5) In ‘The Mother’s Tale’, the authorities are not exactly vigilant in their investigation. Do you believe this is a true reflection on authorities not doing enough after such high profile cases have hit the world news highlighting their constant failings?
Child abuse occurs with frightening regularity. In both Australia and the United States (not sure about the UK) different States differ in their approach to crime scene investigation and this means similar cases may be investigated with differing levels of thoroughness and therefore result.

Investigation of child death is a particularly difficult area as in the majority of cases there are genuinely distraught parents involved. However, children are amongst the most vulnerable members of our society, they deserve to have their deaths fully and properly investigated.
6) To begin with ‘The Mother’s Tale’ does not exactly adhere to the classic format of a crime novel – however, by the end we are treated to what could be classed as a psychological thriller – with a very strong, highly emotional ending. Was this deliberate?
I like stories that make you think, feel and which elicit a strong emotional response. To a point, the narrator of The Mother’s Tale could be someone any of us know. That sense of initial familiarity and then the trajectory of the extremes of where she ends up is what I wanted to explore.
7) Which do you start with, plot or character?
Definitely character.
8) What are the qualities you look for in another writers' work?
A book has to be well written and have characters you care about in one way or another, writers such as John Fowles and John Irving are great writers in this regard. Having a strong structure or theme, such as the best imaginative stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or a literary thriller such as Possession by A.S. Byatt or Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is a bonus.
9) Who would be your dream cast of movie actors for an adaptation of your story?
What a fabulous question to fantasise about! Daniel would have to be someone sensitive yet good-looking like Matt Damon (apologies to Brad Pitt – but he might be a bit too old) and Charlotte Gainsburg (straight from Antichrist) would be fabulous as the mother.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
That’s an easy question! – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I was very young when I read it and I never regarded a narrator with quite the same trust again!
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
No Country for Old Men was a brilliant adaptation of a great book.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I love crime fiction, and using the same criteria as in question 8 I would have to say two crime writers I admire and enjoy are Sophie Hannah and Michael Robotham. In terms of sheer suspense Jonathan Kellerman is pretty hard to beat.
13) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
This is a very difficult – I definitely can’t choose an absolute favourite. I like crime books that cross over into psychological thriller territory. Jonathon Kellerman does this well, but so too does Agatha Christie and her renamed “And Then There Were None” would sit very high on my list.