Ten years ago, Emma’s six-year-old son Aiden drowned during a flood when he wandered away from his classroom, his body never found. Now, Emma has managed to scrape her life back together. She’s married and pregnant and trying not to dwell on the child she lost – when he walks out of the woods, mute and obviously abused, and back into her life.
The short version: This thriller was interesting and mostly well-done, with the occasional moment of flat character development or contrived plot or question unanswered. I mostly chose it and read it because Joanne Froggatt (Anna from Downton Abbey) read the audio and I love her voice. I knew she could do a great job at audio-acting and she did! She turned the book into an experience for me and I loved that. Unfortunately, the book itself fell flat by the end for me.
For the longer version, I won’t give away major spoilers (like the culprit) but I will need to talk about plot elements, so there will be some vague spoilers. Skip away if that bothers you!
The long version: There were a lot of great ideas in this book and at first I really enjoyed it. Aiden’s psychological state seemed spot on, particularly when the reader had no idea what he had suffered over the ten years he was missing. Some of Emma’s psychology was a bit weird – like thinking Aiden was conspiring against her with his previous captive??? – but what do I know, I’ve never been in that kind of eery situation! I could forgive that. But then a few things just came so out of left field and should have been so obvious. There were several nasty characters who were either immediately identifiable as Bad People or who veered so suddenly into the role that it didn’t feel realistic. Denzil’s trick with making multiple people responsible was interesting but felt very contrived. Some questions were never answered at all – like why Aiden did everything a certain person said, and why he wouldn’t help his mother when she was hurt – and Emma’s action when it came to a fellow school teacher at the end felt both unnecessary and completely out of character.
I don’t know. The book started out really well, and the story was interesting…but then it felt like the plot just kind of dissolved into multiple plots that didn’t mesh well together, and had to be manipulated into working together. There were too many instances of characters suddenly going flat and two-dimensional (especially Emma’s husband) and too many loose ends. It left me unsatisfied, and honestly I would have abandoned the book about 3/4 of the way through except that I loved Froggatt’s performance so much. I suppose in the end it was another case of a thriller just not quite living up to what I would have liked, but that seems to be the story with me and thrillers, so it’s really no surprise.