The Child by Fiona Barton introduces us to Kate, a reporter at a London paper, who comes across an article about the discovery of a dead baby’s body at a construction site. The article haunts her thoughts, as well as those of Emma, who grew up in the house that used to occupy the site of the construction. As the story grows and advances, Emma and Kate’s stories weave together, and family secrets and grievances are slowly unveiled to create a fast-paced novel that can easily be devoured in one sitting.
Barton expertly crafts suspense, using short chapters to carry the action and keep the reader interested as the story advances. While short chapters in a literary fiction novel can be annoying, it fits perfectly with a well-written thriller. In each chapter, a new piece of information was doled out, allowing the reader to slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together as they read along.
However, because of this, the plot can be predictable to some. I don’t tend to analyze or try to guess the ending of books as I read, but I still found myself very close to guessing the ending at points in the novel. However, Barton keeps the pace fast and shifts blame from character to character throughout the novel, making it harder to stop and take a second to think and figure out the ending. This didn’t really distract from my reading experience, and the premise of the story does suggest a simple whodunnit sort of plot, so it’s not entirely unexpected.
Barton has crafted characters with just enough detail to hold one’s interest, while still keeping parts of their history or personality from the reader. The main characters are all women, which I really enjoyed. Kate is a very strong, independent woman, but she still shows some weaknesses, which is reflected in the other two main characters–Emma, and her mother, Joan. All three have very strong personalities that take over the page, and they are not 100% likeable at times, allowing me to connect with them even more, and understand their points-of-view.
Themes of motherhood, family, isolation, and desperation run deeply through this thriller, giving us something to chew on (besides the exciting plot). As I read, it was interesting to examine how these forces influenced the actions of each character. This novel is not simply a summer thriller, but offers something extra for the reader to consider. It’s not too creepy, nor too boring, and will be a great summer read for anyone looking to add a bit of investigative fun into their lives.
3.5/5 stars. Thank you to the publisher for providing me an advanced copy for review!