Somehow I missed the release of Fiona Barton’s debut novel, which is a shame, since it sounds as if it’s exactly the kind of investigative story that I love to read; possibly I saw the rather bland title and missed the far more informative blurb. Fortunately the same problem didn’t crop up with her second novel, although the title is just as uninformative as to the nature of the story itself as was that of the previous novel. Although both stories feature some of the same characters, notably Kate, an investigative journalist, this book stands very well on its own as far as I can see. As for the title, the child in question never really appears, having died some decades before we meet our various leading women.
For much of the story, the child has no identity, its skeleton having been dug up during the redevelopment of some gardens in a formerly rundown part of London. Kate, however, is determined to find out the child’s name and when and why someone chose to bury it in secret. Some months after breaking her last big story, Kate feels herself under pressure to deliver another sensation, especially with the ever-present threat of redundancies looming over the paper on which she works. Fortunately, she is able to call on a police contact, who helped her before, and he is able to put her in touch with detectives working on the current case, much as some of them resent Kate’s intrusion.
Also following developments in the investigation, albeit from a greater distance, are Emma — a former resident of the street where the child’s body was unearthed — and Angela, whose new-born baby was taken from her room in the maternity hospital and never seen again. Kate is convinced that the child is Angela’s, but while some evidence seems to confirm that theory, other pieces of the jigsaw suggest that the child was buried more recently than the date of Angela’s loss. Emma, meanwhile, is hiding her own secrets relating to the child’s — and her own — tragic history.
In the background, the not at all sympathetic characters of Emma’s mother, Jude, along with Jude’s on-off boyfriend of many years’ standing have secrets of a criminal nature that both threaten the investigation and have the potential to change everyone’s perceptions as to the identity and origins of the child. More tangled threads for Kate to unravel and make sense of, before her editor or the authorities prevent her delving further into past events.
I was utterly enthralled by this story, even once I’d come up with my own — correct, as it turned out — theory of what had happened to create the mismatched evidence. All three main characters, not to mention their families and friends, had me fascinated — and not just the likable ones. I definitely plan to read the author’s previous book very soon, and I hope very much that this isn’t the last investigation Kate will get herself involved with.
When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.
For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.
For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.
And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.
The Child’s story will be told.
Read an excerpt.