The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

‘It’s not a crime to want to be someone else, to live someone else’s life.’

We meet Vanessa Adams in 2018. She is living with her sister Georgie and her family. And then the police come calling. A man has been found dead, at a house Vanessa recently inspected (under a different name). Did Vanessa kill him?

When Vanessa meets Connor, she thinks that her dreams have been answered. Vanessa has been vulnerable since her mother died when she was young, and while she has the support of her sister Georgie and lives with her friend Lottie, Connor sweeps her off her feet. He seems perfect. But then things start to go horribly wrong. Vanessa has always been able to escape into her imagination: a particular author and stories are a connection with her mother and happier times. But while imagination is a great place to visit, it is not somewhere to live.

The story switches between past and present. But who can we trust? Connor seems genuine, while Vanessa certainly seems to have some issues to address. Several difficult topics are covered in this fast-paced psychological thriller and Ms Ellwood kept me guessing until close to the end of the story.

Did I enjoy this novel? I have mixed feelings. While I admire the way in which Ms Ellwood dealt with so many complex issues, for much of the story I was frustrated by Vanessa’s choices.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith