5 stars out of 5
Note to readers: I read this book some time ago; the review has been held until today at the request of the publisher.
If I weren't already a huge Fiona Barton fan after reading The Widow (also a 5-star-worthy novel, IMHO), I sure would be after reading this one. Given that I have at somewhat of a life other than reading, I expected it would take a few days to wade through. In fact, it was so engrossing that I polished it off over just two days (granted, on one the only TV show worth watching was "Big Bang Theory" and on the second, I was so close to the end that I lugged my Kindle to bed to finish - something that happens once in a blue moon. But you get the point.
More than anything else, this is the story of three women, starting with Kate, a print journalist who needs a great news story to revive a career that's increasingly giving up ground to the newspaper's online reporters. Then there's Emma, a home-based book editor who's dragging a boatload of emotional baggage, including semi-estrangement from a seemingly uncaring mother. And finally, there's Angela, who is unable to come to grips with the loss of an infant in the early years of her marriage despite having a couple of other children and a saint-worthy patient husband. Actually, I'll add a fourth woman; Emma's mother, Jude, plays a significant role here as well.
The story begins as a construction worker turns up the skeleton of a baby in the process of demolishing old buildings. Clearly, the infant was buried there years earlier, making identification a challenge. Ever the nosy reporter, Kate smells a big story, but the lack of available information means she'll have to do some digging of her own before she can get the major scoop she's hoping for.
Somehow, she convinces her reluctant editors that finding the bones is just the tip of the iceberg, and she - together with a newbie reporter who she's been ordered to take under her wing (a totally forgettable character who adds almost nothing to the story, I must say) - sets off to investigate on her own. That connects her to Angela, whose newborn baby was taken from the maternity hospital shortly after birth and never found. Needless to say, Angela is convinced that the bones belong to Alice, her stolen baby girl.
Kate then begins to explore the neighborhood where the bones were found, locating and interviewing some of the people who used to live there. It is then that she meets Emma, who grew up there - thus bringing the Kate-Angela-Emma triumvirate to full circle.
Anything that happened in that neighborhood from that point on will stay in that neighborhood as far as I'm concerned - divulging much else would be giving away too much. Little by little, the pieces come together as long-hidden secrets are revealed and the mystery of the bones is solved. Admittedly, the ending seems a little too pat (and with one exception, expected), but the whole thing was very entertaining and worthwhile nonetheless. Many thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for offering me an advance copy to read and review. Highly recommended!
The Child by Fiona Barton (Berkley, June 2017); 384 pp.