The Child Review
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Every day, news outlets run all kinds of snippets of news stories—stories that many of us never even notice. But in The Child by author Fiona Barton, a reporter picks up a story that leads to decades of pain, secrets, and cover-ups.

The story begins when the body of an infant is found buried beneath a work site in London. Desperate to stay on top off her struggling profession, Post reporter Kate picks up the story, hoping that it will lead to front page headlines. As she digs for something more to the story, she finds Angela, a woman who’s been looking for answers to the unsolved disappearance of her own infant daughter for 40 years. But a woman named Emma also watches the headlines anxiously, fearing what Kate’s investigation will uncover.

The Child is a twisting, tangled tale, slowly unraveling the shame and guilt, misery and grief that have plagued a number of different (and seemingly unrelated) women for decades.

  
 
Admittedly, though, it all gets off to a rather slow start. The discovery of the baby seems like an unlikely story to grab a reporter’s attention—especially one who’s desperate to find the big scoop that will help her hold on to her job. After all, it’s far from an uplifting human interest story, and there are just too many unknowns to make it a sure thing.

The characters, meanwhile, aren’t the kind that will grab a reader’s attention. Kate is minimally developed—and, even then, she’s usually angry, frustrated, or desperate. Angela and Emma are anxious and closed off and weighed down by either grief or guilt (or possibly both). Emma’s mother, Jude, is (and apparently always has been) more concerned about her own love life than about her own troubled daughter. And as the characters and their stories are developed, the pacing drags.

Still, as the pieces begin to come together, the pace begins to pick up. The connections begin to make sense, and the characters’ thoughts and feelings and deepest secrets begin to solidify, eventually picking up the slack for the sluggish first half. Even though you may determine the outcome long before the last page, the emotional weight of the revelations and confessions makes it hard to set the book aside.

It certainly takes The Child some time to hit its stride—but once it does, it’s a gripping and often moving thriller. It may not be an especially cheery read, but it’s worth picking up before you head out on your next vacation.


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