I received an advanced copy of The Child, Fiona Barton’s upcoming book, scheduled to release on June 27. I read and (mostly) enjoyed her first novel, The Widow, so I was excited to dig into this and was also happy to learn that my favorite character from that story, Kate Waters, would reappear in the new book. I am sensing a slight change in the trend from domestic thrillers that entertain but also carry a low level thread of hyper misogyny to more plot and character driven stories and I for one couldn’t be happier. The Widow, which overall I did appreciate even though I gave it a grumpy lukewarm review, spent too much time in the evil man / helpless woman trope for my liking, but I’m happy to say that The Child breaks that mold and really showcases Barton’s story skills. The plotting and intricacies were admirable and even though I figured out the ending sorta (because I’m a genius) it didn’t spoil anything for me.
The Child focuses on four different women, Angela, Kate, Emma and Jude, with alternating POV. At the start, an old housing complex in London is being torn down when a workman finds the remains of an infant who has been buried for years. Kate, our intrepid reporter, now amusingly burdened with a millennial trainee and the pressures of a click-bait economy, sets out to find some answers. The search for a possible answer immediately starts with Angela, whose baby was stolen from the hospital hours after being born. Though this was decades ago, and Angela and her husband have two other children, the book somehow expects her to have gotten over this tragedy as though that is something that can actually be done. Angela is very eager, after all this time, to finally understand what happened to her child and to grieve properly.
As Kate and the police research the connections between Angela’s baby and the building site remains, she is drawn into the lives of the people who once lived in these houses, including Emma and her mother Jude, and starts to uncover more secrets. The story is slow moving to start, though it isn’t boring at all, just a quieter book than usual. I read this at the same time as I listened to Into the Water, which I wouldn’t recommend doing – but pretty sure I’m the only weirdo who has 2-3 books going at all times. The stories are similar in tone, but The Child is simpler (this is not a criticism – Into the Water is crazy convoluted) and easier to follow and really starts running about a quarter of the way into it.
Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read this book prior to publication.
The Child – Grade B+