Book Review: How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward

How to Play Dead
by Jacqueline Ward

Publication date: November 7th 2019
Publisher: Corvus
Pages: 352


She’s watching over them. And he’s watching her…

Ria Taylor is everything to everyone. Wife and mother, the centre of her family. And the manager of a refuge for women whose partners have driven them out of their own homes.

But one night, with her husband away, Ria receives a terrifyingly sinister message. Someone is watching her. Someone who seems to know everything about her. She knows what she should do – seek help, just like she tells her clients to. But Ria is the help. As events escalate, and terror takes hold, Ria must decide whether to run or hide…

Source: Goodreads


“.. I insisted on holding tonight’s proceedings in the hall right here at SafeMe; in a domestic violence refuge with the women affected as guests. Each one of those empty chairs, one in four, represents a woman who has not survived; each one will help us get funding for those who came afterwards. Like a silent legacy.”

Ria Taylor works for SafeMe, a refuge for women affected by domestic violence. When we first meet her, she’s holding a fundraising event for the refuge while her husband is out of the country for work. The couple are happily married but struggling to make ends meet and they are desperate to get their feet on the property ladder.

Domestic violence is obviously a heavy subject and some parts are not easy to read. It’s clear that a great deal of research has gone into this book and it was interesting to read about the refuge as I’m not sure this is a setting I’ve read about before.

I felt that the whole story was a little slow and it took me quite a while to read which isn’t usually a good sign. At first it seemed that there was just a lengthy build up and that something really dramatic would happen, but overall I’d say that the ending was pretty underwhelming.

Based on the blurb, I was definitely expecting this to be a thriller but this didn’t really seem to be the case and for the most part I wasn’t engaged in the day to day of Ria, her friends and family. I found it to be a little waffly and more like a diary of thoughts which were often repetitive. The focus here is more on relationships and connections with others than a thrilling, on the edge of your seat style story.

What I did like were the chapters written by Tanya, whose story was told alongside Ria’s. I found these to be a lot more engaging and was glad that the perspective of a woman in a violent relationship was included. I wish that this had been more prominent in the story, or maybe a whole story based on Tanya would have been a better read for me instead.

Overall I probably wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for a thriller, but if you’re interested in drama and the complexities of domestic violence, this would be a good book for you.

Overall rating: Despite starting this read with a great deal of optimism, “How to Play Dead” wasn’t really my cup of tea. I was expecting a gripping thriller but instead this is more of a slow study if characters and their relationships. It’s 2 stars from me for this one.

Thank you to Readers First for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward

    1. I totally get that! I wasn’t put off by the topic as it’s less about the act of domestic violence and more about the support that is offered to those who have been affected. The main character works for a women’s refuge and it was interesting for me to learn about places like SafeMe as I’ve not really read a lot about them before. Thanks very much for reading! 😊


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