Author: Fiona Barton
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Shana
A nicely crafted and satisfying mystery. Barton uses four main narrative threads with four different point of view characters: Kate, a middle-aged reporter; Angela, a 60-something woman who has lasting grief rooted in the snatching of her newborn from a hospital decades earlier; Emma, a 40-something book editor with lasting emotional issues from a rocky childhood; and Jude, Emma's mother. The narrators are all excellent, with the one caveat that the woman portraying Kate's chapters talks very slowly (but this is easily remedied by putting her on 1.25 speed). The one chapter narrated from a male character's perspective feels a bit odd, though, as it is only a one-off.
These four women, their secrets and scars and needs, are brought to the surface and intensified when the remains of a baby are found on a building site. The titular child at first appears to be the missing Alice, Angela's stolen baby. But as the book progresses, other possibilities arise and the plot becomes more complex and the psychological tolls each of these women has suffered becomes ever more taut and harrowing.
The true protagonist of the book is Kate. In her role as reporter, she is the one that becomes interested in the baby that is found on Howard Street. It is clear immediately that the body is decades old, so it is Kate's own personal drive to make this into a story (and escape the mundane and crass celebrity stories she is inundated with) that propels the press coverage forward and, in turn, contributes to the investigation. More importantly, her doggedness not only helps to reveal the truth, but also gives each of the other women some form of release, empowerment, closure, or justice.
In the end, there is a well-constructed twist and resolution (though I thought Kate was a bit slow on the uptake in grasping exactly what was going on), that manages to be gasp-worthy but not so improbable as to destroy the grounded nature of the book. And it is the three-dimensional depiction of the four women, of their grief and anger and uncertainty, that makes this more than a run of the mill mystery. Barton gets full marks for well-realized characters and an exciting conclusion that avoided jumping any sharks. Recommended.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...