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The Child by Fiona Barton

BOTTOM LINE: A strong second novel


Genre: Suspense & Thriller
Publication Date: 27 June 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…”

My Thoughts: Secrets. Everyone has them. Yet, some secrets are a bit more potent and therefore life-altering than others, and what at first seems simple and straight-forward can actually be quite complex. Kate Waters finds this out as she investigates the mystery of the unearthed baby in The Child. As with her first novel, Fiona Barton‘s second novel is an excellent example of stories taking on a life of their own.

Unlike her first novel, The Child is a much more engaging story from start to finish. It spans three different narrators, and readers must wait to find out what, if anything, connects the three. As Kate’s exclusive story about the found baby eventually twists and morphs into something completely unexpected, readers can only hang on for the ride.

For all that, it is not a novel that rushes towards its denouement. Rather, it takes its time, peeling back each layer of the various mysteries much as an archaeologist carefully brushes away each grain of sand and dirt. Ms. Barton builds into each uncovered layer depth and character development that forces you to truly care about the characters. What follows is a slow burn to an emotional ending, one that is well worth the time it takes to get there.

This is not to say it is a boring novel, for it most definitely is not. Kate and her search for answers allows readers a glimpse into the world of news reporting and the changes brought about by the advent of the Internet, social media, and blogging. Emma brings readers into the world of ghost writing, while Angela shows some of the never-ending anguish mothers feel at the loss of a child. They are three very different women with three distinct perspectives on life, and each character takes on a life of her own while she narrates. Readers find their sympathies split between the three as they all wrestle with their demons past and present that Kate’s questioning brings to the fore.

The Child is a quiet thriller in that there are no life-or-death moments or sadistic killers haunting the narrators. The action is subdued, if nonexistent. Rather, the dangers faced by the women are much more circumspect and ordinary, making them much more terrifying. Ms. Barton carefully builds her narrative around these everyday dangers to create a story that pulls on the heartstrings because at least part of it could so easily happen to any one of us. One might be able to find fault for the ending being a trifle too predictable, but others will find themselves so absorbed in the three women’s lives that they don’t bother predicting anything. Regardless if you figure it out in advance or not, the ending is satisfying, providing closure and hope for all. You can’t get much better than that.

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