I always give authors at least two chances to impress me. While I did not totally dislike Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, I did feel it dragged substantially in its latter half and didn’t really work as a compelling mystery. Its twists and shocks — such as they were — were easy to predict, making for a relatively boring experience. However, Barton has a background in crime reporting and does know her way around a phrase. Her books are, technically, well written. They make sense; they have credible setups and characters’ motivations are clear. I felt that way when reading The Widow(which I gave three stars to) and feel that way about this, her newest release: The Child.
How does The Child measure up against Barton’s previous outing? It is certainly an improvement! Though quite similar in tone and pacing to her other release, in this the author amps up the macabre and intrigue and dread. Though I was able to predict some of the twists in this mystery, I didn’t see most of them coming. Fiona Barton seems more comfortable as a novelist here; it makes for a very pleasant reading experience.
The premise is rather simple: the skeletal remains of a baby are found buried at a construction site. Who buried it there, and why? The Child sees the return of investigative reporter Kate Waters, a main character in The Widow. She is the one digging at this, trying her hardest to find out what happened. The novel is centered on this mystery, and the lives of the people who are entangled in this strange discovery.
I really enjoyed this. Though I do have a few qualms — the story needlessly drags in places, Barton’s male characters aren’t fleshed out at all, the ending is a little rushed — I can definitely say I was a little surprised by how much I loved this novel. Part crime drama, part mystery, part thriller, this is certainly one of the more memorable and rewarding books I’ve read in 2017. Highly recommended.