Category Archives: The Playground

Review: The Playground by Jane Shemilt

Title: The Playground by Jane Shemilt
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?


The Playground by Jane Shemilt  is a riveting mystery and fascinating character study.

Eve Kershaw is a stay at home mum to daughters Poppy and Sorrel and three year old Ash. She and her husband Eric live in her family home on a sprawling estate surrounded by dense woods. Eve provides minimal supervision as their children spend their days playing outdoors.  She is excited to begin tutoring  children with dyslexia and Eve is delighted by the unexpected friendships that form amongst both the children and their parents. But what will happen to their families and friendships after tragedy strikes?

Despite a few reservations, Grace is hopeful the sessions will be beneficial for her eleven year old son Blake.   Although her nine year old daughter Charley does not need any extra help, Grace is pleased when Eve invites her daughter to join them. Since Grace is the family’s only source of income and works long hours, her husband Martin is responsible for the children’s daily drop offs and pick-ups. Grace is surprised but unconcerned to discover that Eve and Martin have become somewhat close friends.

Interior designer Melissa and her architect husband Paul Chorley-Smith have also signed up their thirteen year old daughter Izzy for Eve’s tutoring sessions.  Melissa has no choice but to allow Paul to closely monitor Izzy’s lessons but she has no reason to believe her daughter is not thriving under Eve’s tutelage. She is also thrilled to see that Izzy has become close friends with the other children.  Melissa is quite reserved and a little distant but she is soon an integral part of the circle of friends.

Over the summer, the three couples are soon spending lots of time in each other’s company at the Kershaw’s home and take a vacation together. With wine flowing freely, they enjoy raucous dinners while the children are largely unsupervised for large swaths of time. While the adults are absorbed with their own secrets, the kids are playing troubling games.  After a tragic accident, the friendships deepen but it takes another shocking event for them to realize something quite horrific is occurring in one of their homes.

The Playground is a spellbinding mystery that also serves as a bit of a cautionary tale for “free-range” parenting.  The characters are multi-faceted and each of the couples is dealing with a variety of issues behind closed doors. The plot is well-developed and easily captures readers’ attention. With a stunning series of stunning twists and turns, Jane Shemilt  brings this suspenseful domestic mystery to a tense conclusion. Fans of the genre do not want to miss this enthralling mystery.

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Filed under Contemporary, Jane Shemilt, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Playground, William Morrow Paperbacks