Killing Me Gently by Hazel McHaffie

Killing me gently

VelvetEthics Press|1 July 2019|390 pages|Review copy|4*

I’ve read two of Hazel McHaffie’s books in the past – Over My Dead Body and Inside of Me. In both books I was impressed by the way she weaves facts into her fiction so seamlessly that it doesn’t detract from the story. So, I was pleased when she asked if I would like to read her latest book, Killing Me Gently, her 11th published novel set in the world of medical ethics.

The story begins with a dramatic scene – in the middle of the night, in February, in complete darkness as Anya, feeling desperate and close to breaking point, runs alongside a fast flowing river:

Mud sucked greedily at her boots, branches tangled in her hair, exposed roots snaked across her path. The vicious swirl of the river drew her like a magnet down into the thick darkness, the dank odour of slowly decomposing vegetation.

Anya had no notion of time, only all-consuming compulsion to get as far away as possible from her tormentor. Several times she skidded wildly, once finding herself at the very brink, one false move away from those unforgiving rocks.

I was immediately drawn in – what has happened to make her so desperate? Who is she running from and who is tormenting her? Will she fall in – or is she trying to kill herself? I had to know.

The blurb expands more on Anya’s situation without giving away any spoilers: 

Blurb:

Anya Morgan has it all – beauty, brains, dream home, handsome husband, and now to complete the picture, a new baby. But Gypsy Lysette doesn’t conform to Anya’s criteria for perfection. Sleep deprived and insecure, she searches for solace and reassurance.

Leon Morgan is torn between supporting his paranoid wife and the demands of his job. Increasingly stressed, he starts to make mistakes, big mistakes, threatening the future of the family firm, jeopardising their marriage.

Tiffany Corrigan to the rescue; qualified nurse, mother of three, a fount of practical wisdom. She’s a shoulder to lean on when the crises escalate … when Gypsy is admitted to hospital … when the fingers start pointing … when suspicion and jealousy widen the rift between Anya and Leon.

Then inexplicable things start to happen. Frightening things. Baby Gypsy’s life as well as Anya’s sanity are under threat. Who is responsible? And will the professionals act in time to save this family from devastating loss?

It is an intense, emotional and dramatic psychological thriller. Hazel McHaffie trained as a nurse and a midwife, gained a PhD in Social Sciences and was Deputy Director of Research in the Institute of Medical Ethics and her expertise is reflected in this book. Her writing successfully conveys the stress Anya was under and the damage to their relationship that Anya and Leon experienced as their baby became ill and was admitted to hospital. Right from the first page I was completely gripped by the mystery – what was the cause of Gypsy’s illness and was it Anya’s fault?

It is so tense and at first it was hard to decide who could be trusted. The tension rises, so much so that I was convinced of the danger of the situation and I feared the worst. And even when I thought I had worked out what was actually happening to Gypsy, my heart was in my mouth as I read on. 

Killing me Gently raises ethical and moral questions about childcare and the relationship between the medical practitioners, social workers and parents, looking at it on a personal level. It is by no means a comfortable read, because it is both emotional and disturbing. However I was completely absorbed by the drama of it all.

Hazel McHaffie’s other novels cover medical ethic issues such as Alzheimer’s and the right to die. Her non-fiction books are about life and death decisions. For more details see her website. She also writes a most interesting blog.

My thanks to Hazel McHaffie for a copy of her book for review.