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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: THE CHILD, Fiona Barton

The Child, by Fiona Barton. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

'A fascinating study of mystery and the drives behind people’s actions – including the more sinister ones'


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.


Perhaps it is the similar backgrounds, but I love the way Fiona Barton writes. Like me, she prefers the ‘whydunit’ to the ‘whodunit’ – even if you guess who is behind the mystery, you will find yourself not minding, so hooked are you by the story itself, the reasons behind the crimes, and the characters. Everything is firmly footed in reality. No women have hysterical breakdowns for no apparent reason, no men are menacing simply for the hell of it. Fiona Barton’s characters come across as people who exist in the everyday world, who you might bump into on the street. Even her bad guys are fully rounded and complex – no one-dimensional clichés here.

There is no silly nonsense, either, about journalists printing whatever they want, whenever they want, and hang the consequences, as happens in so many other crime fictions. Kate Waters is a professional, and there are some fabulous insights into the way journalists work and think.

As for The Child itself, the story is a complex tale of how one tiny paragraph in a newspaper sparks a set of events that will change the lives of a number of people beyond recognition. It isn’t a fast-paced, breathless rollercoaster of a read; it’s more slow-burning and complex than that. It’s a fascinating study of mystery and the drives behind people’s actions – including the more sinister ones.

The author’s writing skill has grown since The Widow. I really enjoyed losing myself in this sad, grubby, but also uplifting tale.

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