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The Child by Fiona Barton

The Child

by Fiona Barton

Quick take

"Because readers see the mystery through the eyes of Kate, a reporter, it’s easy to feel as though you are a part of the investigation, too."

Why I love it

Cristina Arreola
BOTM Judge

Is there any explanation for why summer is the perfect season to indulge in what I—somewhat affectionately—like to call "murder books"? You know exactly what kind of book I’m talking about: that special brand of addictive thriller that features a female lead—maybe a journalist, maybe a detective, maybe just a woman with a troubled past—who finds herself knee-deep in some sort of mystery—maybe involving a murder, maybe involving a kidnapping, and almost certainly involving the aforementioned troubled past. I don’t know why I love to read them in the hazy, languid days of summer, but I do. Perhaps it’s because the long days and fevered air makes it feel as though nothing bad, and everything bad, can happen.

In The Child, Fiona Barton delivers an exquisite version of "murder book." The story once again follows Kate Waters, who you may recognize from Barton’s debut, The Widow. Kate is an intrepid, tenacious journalist who could be described as a British Olivia Benson, if Law & Order ever launched a spinoff in London. Fueled by equal parts ambition, curiosity, and genuine empathy for the victims, Waters digs into the strange case of a dead baby, whose skeleton was recently unearthed by construction workers in a gentrifying neighborhood of London. The baby has been dead for decades, but Kate is determined to discover who she is and how she died. But with no solid leads, Kate is forced to pose the following question to her newspaper’s readers: "Who Is The Building Site Baby?"

As Kate dives further into the case, she unearths some troubling truths—and realizes there’s more at play to this mystery than the bones of a child. What she discovers is a tragedy that could completely upend the lives of three different women: Angela, the mother of a daughter named Alice, who went missing hours after her birth and was never found; Emma, a mysterious, troubled freelance editor who could have information about the identity of the baby; and Jude, Emma’s mother.

Because readers see the mystery through the eyes of Kate, a reporter, it’s easy to feel as though you are a part of the investigation, too. I jotted down clues along the way—as Kate discovered them—and found that, by the end, I had figured it out. That doesn’t lessen the satisfaction of the reading experience, however. The Child proves that a good mystery is as much about the investigation as the resolution.

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