Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Steven Savile

We all have secrets . . . Jodie Garrow is a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks when she falls pregnant. Scared, alone and desperate to make something of her life, she adopts out the baby illegally – and tells nobody.

Twenty-five years on, Jodie has built a new life and a new family. But when a chance meeting brings the adoption to the notice of the authorities, Jodie becomes caught in a nationwide police investigation, and the centre of a media witch hunt.

What happened to Jodie’s baby? And where is she now? The fallout from Jodie’s past puts her whole family under the microscope, and her husband and daughter must re-examine everything they believed to be true.

Potent, provocative and compulsively readable, THE MISTAKE is the story of a mother and the media’s powerful role in shaping our opinions.

THE MISTAKE, a brand new mystery published by Penguin Putman, is anything but. The Big Thrill was lucky enough to corner the delightful Wendy James, the brains behind the story. How could we resist the temptation to ask about her favourite mistakes?

Ah…I don’t suppose you mean my own — that would be marrying a guy with a secret passion for Sheryl Crow…? Actually, we’re still married, and I’m cool with his thing for Sheryl… My favourite Mistakes would have to be those mistakes and accidents that end up with unexpectedly wonderful results — like the discovery of Penicillin, or the invention of alcoholic beverages, for instance. Surely, wine was the result of some sort of accident? The ‘discovery’ of certain islands after a wrong turn somewhere in the Pacific Ocean…

Speaking as an average red-blooded chap, obviously your guy has excellent taste, though I’m slightly concerned that wine itself would be considered a mistake—however I can see a lot of mistakes coming about because of that stuff! So, seeing as drinking alone’s a bad sign in most quarters, who would you choose as ideal drinking buddies to wile away a few hours?

It’d be fun to do a really random mix and match: how about Jane Austen, PJ O’Rourke, Dorothy Parker, Patricia Cornwell, and Jackie Collins…? The conversation would be interesting, anyway.

I can imagine—topic of conversation #102, what do you think constitute the key components of a thriller, Ms. Austin? Ms Collins? And round the table the questions go, until they hit you.

The absolute key is making the reader want to know – desperately! – what happens next. I think you can do almost anything in terms of plot character and technique, as long as you keep those pages turning. Easier said than done, however!

Hard to argue with that, it’s all about turning the page rather than throwing the book aside in disgust. Well, not all about that, first of all you’ve got to convince folks to shell out their hard earned cash on your story instead of a packet of cigarettes, a bottle of beer, the latest blockbuster, never mind the next novel by the big names, so why should Joe Mystery Readeropt for THE MISTAKE instead of the unhealthy option of beer, smokes and movies? Sell us that bad boy, Wendy.

They simply AREN’T The Mistake. None of them are going to tell you the story of Jodie Garrow: a woman with a secret – closely held for almost  25 years – that makes her a local outcast,  a national pariah; that loses her friends, and almost destroys her family. And they  AREN’T going to tell you what happened to Jodie’s baby.

Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to chat – and to whet the appetite of Big Thrill Readers, here’s a couple of my favourite reviews of THE MISTAKE already in:

“Tense and involving … credible and accomplished.” The Australian

“The Mistake is an amazing book that had me hooked from start to finish…” Aussie Readers


Wendy James was born in Sydney in 1966, and grew up in western New South Wales and the northern beach suburbs of Sydney. Over the years she has worked in a number of diverse fields in order to support her writing habit, her university studies and her four children. Wendy currently lives in Newcastle, NSW.

Her first novel, OUT OF THE SILENCE (Random House, 2005), won the 2006 Ned Kelly Award for first crime novel, and was shortlisted for the Nita May Dobbie Award for women’s writing.

To learn more about Wendy, please visit her website.

Steven Savile