JACK JORDAN on the Parent-Child Bond [Do No Harm]

Written by Jack Jordan

On the surface, my latest novel Do No Harm is a tense, breakneck-speed thriller about a surgeon whose child is abducted by an organised crime ring and made to face a terrifying ultimatum: either she kills a patient on the operating table or she will never see her son again. However, at the heart of the story lies a strong theme of motherhood, as each of the central characters fights to protect what matters most to them, no matter the cost.


First, we have Dr Anna Jones. Anna is at the top of her game in the surgical field, trusted with performing open-heart surgery on Labour MP Ahmed Shabir. But once she peels off her scrubs and steps out of the hospital doors, her personal life is very different. Anna is finalising her divorce and struggling to balance her career with caring for her son, entrusting his after-school care with Paula, her next-door neighbour. The pressure she is under in and out of the hospital manifests itself in her battle with trichotillomania, a condition where one has the compulsion to pull out one’s hair, which she has had for as long as she can remember. As the pressures in her life mount and the moral dilemma is thrust upon her, we see her slowly unravel beneath the terrifying burden, worsening her condition and threatening to pull her apart at the seams.


Then we have Margot, Dr Jones’ scrub nurse, who stands dutifully by her side in the operating theatre. Margot is in a dire situation. The cost of living has grounded her in inescapable debts, not just from loaning companies, but also from a dark character who is determined to make her pay for her ever-mounting debts to him. Margot has sold everything she owns and is avoiding her landlord’s calls regarding months of missed rent, desperately praying for an opportunity to acquire enough money to free her of her situation. For she hasn’t only got herself to think about now; she must consider the baby she is carrying and give them the life they deserve – the life she never had growing up. When Dr Anna Jones begins to act suspiciously, Margot believes she may have found her way to get the money she needs to escape her problems…


Finally, we have Detective Inspector Rachel Conaty. As Rachel begins to look into the mysterious circumstances around the murder of Dr Jones’ neighbour, Paula, and fixates her attention on the whereabouts of Anna’s son, whose location seems suspiciously hushed up, her past that she has worked so hard to bury begins to rise to the surface. Rachel’s son went missing many years before, never to be seen again, and searching for the truth about Dr Jones’ son ignites a desperate, fervent need in her to find the boy to make up for not saving her own.


All three women at the heart of the novel are at different stages of motherhood, thrust into impossible situations, each with opposing goals that contradict the other in a dizzying game of cat and mouse. Anna, Margot and Rachel must battle to save their children or live in the suffocating aftermath of losing them, and although the characters themselves are boldly different in personality and circumstance, their role as mothers echoes one another in a way that is only possible for the reader to spot. If Anna doesn’t get her son back, she will essentially live the life of mourning Rachel leads, living in the shadow of her son’s disappearance. And despite Margot’s insistence on being the polar opposite of Anna, they are far more similar than she realises.


As an author, it is a gift to write about the tie between mother and child. The bond is fascinating and universally understood, allowing readers to relate immediately on an instinctual level; the role of protecting one’s offspring is seared into our DNA. This instinct is so fruitful when it comes to creating plots because whatever you throw at a mother or guardian with this emotional tie, the need to protect one’s child will almost always prevail. This allows cruel writers like me to pit the unthinkable against them, to see what, if anything, will cause this bond to break. How far is a parent or guardian willing to go to protect what matters most to them?


Which begs the question: if you were in Dr Anna Jones’ shoes, which would you choose? Would you, or could you, kill a patient to save your child? How far would you be willing to go?


(Do No Harm is published on 26th May in hardback, ebook, and audio, with a special edition from Waterstones available here: https://tinyurl.com/2uv8vyv3

Author Photo © Matt Nalton Photography

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