Fiona Barton’s prior book The Widow was a mystery told from the point of view of three characters, including crack reporter Kate Waters. I enjoyed it, and was pleased to receive an advance copy of Ms. Barton’s latest, The Child, from Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Similar in structure to The Widow,, The Child is told from the points of view of three main characters, this time all women:
- Kate Waters is back as the intrepid journalist, looking for her next big story as she watches the newspaper business changing around her. “The tsunami of online news had washed her and those like her to a distant shore.”
- Emma Simmonds is a young editor whose extreme anxiety about whether he past might catch up to her seems to be threatening the stability she has found in the married life she has created for herself. “He doesn’t know me really. I’ve made sure.”
- Angela Irving has a mother’s intuition and her identity as a mother is shaded by the devastating loss she suffered 20+ years ago when her infant was stolen from the hospital right after its birth. “People say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…it doesn’t. It breaks your bones, leaving everything splintered and held together with grubby bandages and yellowing sticky tape…Fragile and exhausting to hold together. Sometimes you wish it had killed you.”
The plot centers around the grisly discovery of the skeleton of an infant, unearthed at a construction site. Each of the primary characters has a connection to the unfolding story of the “Building Site Baby,” and this propels the narrative.
The structure of the novel works well and the characters are well drawn. We learn so much about them as their individual searches for the meaning of this event occur. Emma, for example, has a husband who works at a University. Her view of his work environment? “University departments are like prides of lions, really. Lots of males preening and screwing around and hanging on to their superiority by their dewclaws.” (Having worked at a college, I LOVED this line!). Barton’s excellent descriptive skills are clear as Emma reminisces about a house where she lived as a child: “I can still smell that house; years of patchouli oil overlaid by grime, suffocating and musky like a hippie’s old afghan coat.”
I’m one of those people who NEVER solves the mystery in advance, but even I could see this one coming, so it lost a star there. But that didn’t detract from the enjoyment I experienced as I read this book. I look forward to more from Ms. Barton. Four stars.