Ber Carroll has written eleven novels but only the last few under the shortened name “BM” to signify the books being darker and grittier. And there is definitely some darkness in her latest book The Other Side of Her, a story of murder, a cover up and a woman on the edge. But also a story that draws on Carroll’s own experience as an Irish backpacker on a working visit to Australia.
The Other Side of Her starts with two very separate stories. Beth is a single mother still dealing with the aftermath of the split from a controlling ex while trying to get her life together. Meanwhile Ryan and Mia are a couple dealing with a young son with ADHD and whose life is back in the spotlight when an investigation into missing Irish backpacker Tara, who worked for them as a nanny, is reopened. The narrative also drops back to the time when Tara came to work for Ryan and Mia, an arrangement which was far from idea for anyone. It takes until about half-way through the book for the two threads to come together. The connection is both tangential and critical and puts Beth and the couple on a collision course.
While the set-up is intriguing, Carroll has to essentially betray her characters in order to build tension. At one point Beth is point blank advised to report her growing suspicions to the police by her best friend, an action which may well have put her in a much better place. She takes a different action which ups the pressure on her and sets up the final act of the book. While this works in terms of the novel, many of Beth’s actions in this regard make little sense. But that said, Carroll still manages to confound reader expectations to deliver a character-based, unexpected resolution.
The Other Side of Her is an interesting domestic thriller that has a few hot button drivers. The first is how far parents will go to protect and safeguard their children. The second is the way Carroll zeroes in on a relationship in which the husband is emotionally abused and manipulated. At the core of the story is a series of misjudgements and personal pressure that leads to tragedy. Carroll is interested in the aftermath – the way people respond to this pressure (both positive and negative). And while some of the character moments feel forced, Carroll manages to ask some interesting questions and generate a fair amount of tension on the way.