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The lives of three female neighbors in a London suburb collide in Louise Millar's "The Playdate." In alternating chapters, we get to know Callie Roberts, Suzy Howard, and Debs Ribwell. Callie is a single mum struggling to get by. Her five-year old daughter, Rae, has a heart condition that requires close monitoring. Suzy Howard, an American and stay-at-home mother of three boys, is married to the handsome and successful Jez. He is frequently away on business and increasingly preoccupied with his job. Debs is a nervous middle-aged newlywed whose husband, Allan, is trying to keep her on an even keel; she is rattled by loud noises and, it seems, a bit paranoid.

Callie, who is lonely, turns to Suzy for company, and the two become inseparable. However, Callie is all too aware of the vast difference between Suzy's affluent lifestyle and her own. She longs to go back to her old job as a sound designer, so that she can earn some much-needed income. However, Suzy is as dependent on Callie as Callie is on Suzy. How will Suzy react when her chum is no longer around as much? When a series of strange events disturbs the tranquility of their quiet street, Callie and Suzy join forces against Debs who, they suspect, may pose a danger to them and their children.

Louise Millar leads us down the garden path, providing us with subtle clues that there is more here than meets the eye. When the author suddenly pulls the rug out from under us, we are a bit stunned. How could we have been so misguided? Readers will differ on whether or not Millar plays fair, but most will be frantically turning pages to find out what happens next. The novel's plot is reminiscent of Russian nesting dolls, in which more is hidden than is revealed. This is a wickedly suspenseful and fast-paced thriller that will keep mystery lovers riveted in horrified fascination. Eventually, this unusual story progresses to its unpredictable and explosive conclusion.

Four stars for an addictive read that, alas, requires a huge suspension of disbelief.
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on December 30, 2012
In this case, the stars say it all. Millar's book is billed as a psychological thriller. Based on what I expected from the description on the back, it was OK. Not horrible, definitely not great. With a book like this, it's easier to point out the problems, so I'll take the easy road first. The biggest problem I had was really basic. We have only 3 main characters, which leaves us with only two potential "bad guys." According to standard plot mechanics, one will be a red herring. With that logic in hand, I pretty much knew who the real "bad guy" was going to be about a quarter of the way into the book. I also knew some other important stuff that I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to suspect quite that early - but maybe I'm wrong and Millar meant what I took for a big reveal to merely be confirmation of something we were supposed to have figured out long before the reveal . . .

I agree with another reviewer who pointed out that the plot required some coincidences and contrivances that, while not necessarily out of line for a book of this sort, somehow felt hard to believe, suggesting that the author could have done a better job of setting them up. I was never able to become emotionally invested in the main character, or to really connect with her in any way - even though I was a single parent myself. Finally, the really scary stuff - the part of the book that should have had me turning pages into the night - happened late, was very short, and was on its way to being resolved even as it happened. So the "thriller" aspect felt very foreshortened.

All that having been said, I still found myself enjoying parts of the book. I quite liked Rae, Callie's daughter. And of the three adult women, I enjoyed Debs the most. I thought Millar built her character with skill and subtlety; in the end, she was the most fully realized, nuanced, and interesting character in the book. In fact, my primary motivation in finishing the book was to finish her story.

For the record, I'd suggest that anyone interested in a psychological thriller that involves a woman who suffers from mental illness should check out Folly by Laurie R. King.
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on July 11, 2012
Callie, Suzy and Debs all live in the same street. Callie is a single mother and lives with her daughter Rae who has a heart problem. She wants to go back to work but that will need careful planning. Suzy is an American, married to Jez and mother of three small boys. Debs is married with no children and a part time job at a nearby school - she has just moved in next door to Suzy. The story is told from the point of view of each woman in alternate chapters. Callie narrates her own story and the other two are told in the third person.

Gradually the tension builds up as the story progresses. Is Debs really mad and what is her history? She thinks people are spying on her but just because you are paranoid it doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you. Is Suzy really the good friend Callie thinks she is? Surely it would be easy to tell your best friend that you have an opportunity to go back to work? Is Suzy's marriage really as strong as it appears? Who can you really trust with your children?

This is an interesting story which shows you cannot judge by appearances and that it is difficult to know who you can really trust. I found it well written and intriguing to try and piece things together to work out what is going on. I found Callie a little annoying as a character though I thought Debs was well done and I liked her in spite of her obsession with calm and order. The men in the story were more shadowy characters and did not really come to life for me which is why I have only given the book four stars. If you want something a bit different then give this a try - chick lit it definitely isn't in spite of its cover picture.
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on September 7, 2012
I'd read a bit about this book from another blogger somewhere in the blogosphere (I apologize that I can't remember where!) a few weeks ago, and and remember only slightly being caught by the idea that women were helping care for each other's children and something happened. That was enough to get me off my duff and out to find "The Playdate." With so many kidnappings and losses and killings of little children in this country in these times, it was a subject that I couldn't wait to see how a debut writer would handle. Old subject? New perspective! I thought it would be enjoyable to read but easy to figure out. Wrong!!! Not so easy to figure out...suspenseful and very full-bodied!

Perfect pitch in the dialogs whether among adults or adults with children. Even internal dialogs are meaty and ring true...often anxiety-producing, often truly terrifying. And speaking of pitch, much of the suspense and anxiety of the book is built around sounds both good and bad that are built upon throughout the book. An unusual and fascinating technique that I enjoyed following. Sound as horror...and sound as holy.

Easily deniable/ordinary happenings with sinister underbellies first make us think we're safe, and then confuse us! It's the use of these ordinary things we encounter every day, employed as background for a disaster just waiting to happen and juxtaposed with a pot boiling over that can hold us in the most tenderhooks. Does the vaccum cleaner noise from next door really follow you from room to room as you move around your own house? Who's watching your trash?

While the book is set in London and country, it has none of the hard edge of the British writing that so many books of this mystery/suspense genre can have. It was easy reading, and such fun.

I found absolutely all of Ms Millar's settings and characters engaging. Each character was so well described--down to their individual ticks and manipulations. It was a magical book to read.

Often, I felt my heart racing with Callie, the single mother who just wanted to regain some of her "self" by returning to work at her beautiful job...which meant leaving her pre-school child in the after school care until she could get there. Scenes describing Callie's emotions, her racing home from work, her anxieties and her heart-wrenching moments were some of the best I've read in this genre. Just incredible writing that you could feel in your body.

Suzy, Callie's best friend next door, was the best friend "every mom" so many of us know or have known who just seems to give it all for the children...hers and yours. She's the earth mother type who doesn't seem quite like everyone else. She's more devoted to her children than anything on earth, and her life displays that; is messy with it. Millar gives wonderful life to this character. The easy way Suze had of drawing in those who needed to be cared for, both mother and child. We've all known moms like Suze.

My favorite character was Callie, but the character who was most interestingly distressing and who rubbed me wrong the whole time, of course, was Debs. Strange, alienated, weird and obviously a little mental, Debs was the new neighbor with very little to bolster her up....and very little reputation to stand on. Millar uses this character in such a delightfully malicious way. It's criminal!!! Was she the kindly new after school helper and earnest next door neighbor, or a woman with violent and shady past?

Louise Millar takes a subject close to our hearts; our children, and writes around the anxiety of who they really belong to, and who really cares for them.

This is a book not to be missed. I simply couldn't stop reading it. It was my constant companion for 2 days!! Highly recommended read.

5 stars for a great read! Deborah/TheBookishDame
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on September 26, 2012
loved loved LOVED this book..I started reading it early in the morning a little at bedtime..then had to get up at 4 am to finish it before taking my daughter to school...it is a great story. And you think you know the characters..and then something seems a little off..and there is a strange neighbor so you're sure she's involved..and then from the middle to the end of the book it is twist after twist..awesome read. Especially if you are a parent!
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on December 13, 2012
This books was like a first rough draft of a story full of characters, ideas, and the potential of telling an interesting story. I love well-written/edited novels with alternating voices in chapters or sections. The initial style of this volume did just that, but at times I could not recall which character I was hearing as the two main females characters are almost clones. Then all sorts of ideas, scenes and narrative make one wonder exactly what genre one is reading. Romance, thriller, life-changing epiphanies? I did not care for any of the characters and was so bored by the time the author changed the whole POV by bluntly jumping into first person. I think this book needed editing big-time, and the characters fleshed out more so we might have something to invest in. There is plenty of reason to try writing in new and original styles but I want it to be understandable and not confusing unless the author intends to meld it together. Gave it 1.5 stars and would not encourage friends to waste the time.
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on August 14, 2012
If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you'll like this book. I thought it was a quick read and hard to put down. However, I must admit that you have to suspend your disbeliefs while reading portions of it. The story is told through three of the main characters, which I liked. I also loved the last scene of the book- it's always good to read of women who are empowered. This is definitely not my favorite book but I enjoyed it and thought it was well written.
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on April 12, 2014
I loved reading this book. I loved it as a mystery and I loved it as a novel. I found the relationships believable, well developed and interesting. I could relate to the characters despite being very unlike them. I was entertained and interested from the first page to the last. I found the sections about being a sound designer fascinating and I couldn't wait to get back to the book when I put it down. I would read another book by this author in a minute. Immediately after finishing this book I ordered and read her second boo,"Accidens Happen' and pre-ordered her third.
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on May 6, 2013
I finished this novel today, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are complex and consistent and you get to know them inside and out.

I expected a murder or death (since it was almost Lifetime Movie-like) but there wasn't one, and I really liked that! It was a nice change.

The plot twists were believable and not hard to follow.

While all the action is described very well, the only problem I had was a strange change to present tense when Callie was telling her story. It made no sense, and
didn't add to the story. There were a couple times when the tense would change back to past, and I'm just not sure why Ms Millar did that.

I am looking forward to her next book coming out in June.

I enjoyed this book on my Kindle4.
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on November 5, 2012
PLAYDATE is one of the best books I've read all year. This story of a friendship between two mothers, both harboring secrets, took me on an emotional roller coaster before slamming we with an ending I never saw coming. I literally could not put my reader down for the last 100 pages of this brilliant novel.
I usually prefer stories set in the USA and while the write up intrigued me, I left the book on my wish list for a few weeks. Had I known how brilliant the plot, characters, and writing were, I'd have read it the day the book hit the shelves.
This is by far the best book set outside the USA that I've ever read. I hesitate to give too many plot details as not to spoil any part of this must read novel.
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