Theory of Mind by Sanjida O’Connell. Winner of the Betty Trask Award for Romantic Fiction

Sandra is caught in the complex web of a relationship with Corin. His energy stimulates her; his passion excites her; his work as a TV producer fascinates her. But does he have real feelings for her, or does he just want to control her?

Feelings preoccupy Sandra as she carries out her research into the emotions of chimps. Do they ‘care’ about other chimps.’ Do they, in fact, have ‘theory of mind’.’

During her daily visits to the zoo, Sandra meets a strange and isolated child, Paul, son of one of the keepers. What is he doing when he disappears for hours on end? She also worries about her exotic, brilliant friend, Kim, a scientist who has built the killing instinct into her predator robots. Something, or someone, in Kim’s past is making her unpredictable and aggressive.

As Theory of Mind races to its shocking and terrifying conclusion, much more than Sandra’s emotions are at risk.

Richly observed, powerfully written, this extraordinary and thought-provoking first novel introduces a compelling new talent.