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Review: THE CHILD FINDER, Rene Denfield

The Child Finder, by Rene Denfield. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

‘Heartbreaking, stunning, beautifully-phrased, and delicately judged’


Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience, that allows her to succeed when others have failed.

Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they'd gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.

But Naomi knows that Madison isn't dead. As she relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison's disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


I started this book immediately after finishing The Dry, and the two setting couldn’t be more different – The Dry being set in the heat of drought in Australia, while The Child Finder takes place in a snow-filled forest. It gave me shivers, not simply through evocative sense of place, but also the horror of the story playing out.

It’s not often the phrase ‘beautiful’ can be used about a crime book, but The Child Finder really is something quite special, utterly unique in its ability to spin a gorgeous fairytale over the horror of child abduction. Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But this cleverly-wrought book manages it, alternating narrative between the world of Naomi, who is ‘the child finder’, and the lost girl Madison. Madison copes with being held prisoner by telling herself she has fallen into a book, and has become the snow child. These sections are heartbreaking, stunning, beautifully-phrased, and delicately judged, the balance never falling over into the cloying or ridiculous. In addition, the glorious language of little Madison somehow manages to hit a note that is even more sinister because of its naivety rather than despite of.

Ultimately, though, it was so raw, so close to the bone, so difficult to read emotionally, that despite being blown away by this book, I can’t actually say I enjoyed it. Would I recommend it? Yes, with the caveat that the reader be prepared for a tough read. It’s a unique book, full of surprises, of beauty and ugliness, with a tragically sad vein running throughout.

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