Title: The Child by Fiona Barton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.
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…
The Child by Fiona Barton is an intriguing mystery about a newspaper reporter who is pursuing a story about the recent discovery of a baby’s skeleton at a construction site.
Newspaper reporter Kate Waters’ instincts are immediately piqued after reading a story about of the unearthing of baby’s skeletonized remains and she quickly begins looking into the case. At the same time, the newspaper story is quite upsetting to Emma Simmonds, an emotionally fragile wife of a university professor and Angela Irving, whose newborn daughter was kidnapped from a maternity ward in 1970. Kate’s research leads her to Angela who has never given up hope she will one day find out what happened to baby Alice and she eagerly co-operates with both Kate and the police who trying to identify the remains. Emma, on the other hand, is immediately filled with dread as she scours the newspapers daily for new developments in the case. Kate is, of course, interested in breaking a big story but she also becomes emotionally involved in learning the truth after she interviews Angela. Will Kate uncover the truth about the baby’s identity?
Kate’s newspaper is in the midst of another round of employee cuts so she is definitely feeling the pressure to break a huge story. She has been in the business long enough to have a decent list of police contacts who give her just enough information for her to begin her investigation. Initially keeping quiet about the story she is researching, Kate is instrumental helping the police discover the identity of the baby’s remains. The case then takes an unexpected turn and Kate is hot on the trail of story that she knows is going to be huge.
Angela cannot help but hope the discovery of the baby’s skeleton will finally give her the answers she has been searching for about baby Alice’s disappearance. Despite having her hopes raised and dashed a few times over the years, Angela is certain the remains are Alice’s. If she is correct, will she find out the truth about what happened to her daughter? Or will she forever wonder who is responsible for kidnapping her baby?
Emma’s emotional troubles first surfaced when she was a teenager but her depression and anxiety have been much improved for quite some time. The newspaper article sends her on a downward spiral and she is very distracted as the story unfolds. It soon becomes obvious she is heavily burdened by a secret from her long ago past, but Emma finds it impossible to discuss what is haunting her. With every new revelation about the baby, Emma becomes even more fearful that the truth about what she has been hiding will be discovered.
The Child is initially somewhat slow paced as Fiona Barton introduces readers to the key players in the unfolding mystery. Kate tenaciously follows each and every lead she uncovers but she is having a very difficult time figuring out exactly how the disparate pieces of the puzzle fit together. Angela is desperate for answers about what happened to her baby and she is a very sympathetic character. Emma is a little harder to read and the truth about her past takes a very long time to be revealed. Astute readers will mostly likely figure out the connection between the various storylines fairly early, but this knowledge does not lessen the overall enjoyment of the novel. While there are very surprises left by the novel’s conclusion, there is one final revelation that is instrumental in tying up all of the loose ends.