The Child by Fiona Barton
The Child is Fiona Barton’s second novel and continues to feature journalist Kate Waters who was introduced in her debut, The Widow.
When an unidentified baby’s body is found swaddled in newspaper and buried at a building site in Woolwich the story onlymakes a handful of lines in The Standard, but local journalist Kate Waters thinks there could be more to it than meets the eye. News is slow in general across the office and there’s always the threat of redundancies now that the newspaper website is kept afloat by clickbait stories and the digital team rather than the actual reporters. She needs a big story, the baby’s body might not be it but she has to start somewhere.
Just as she’s about to get going, her boss Terry lands a surprise on her. The new intern is the son of a prominent journalist and needs someone to show him the ropes, so Kate’s got herself a partner.
Her early investigations get her no closer to the identity of the building site baby and she ends up filing a story to raise awareness and asking locals if they can help. After the story is published and some help from her old friend, Detective Bob Sparkes, there’s one case that stands out from the rest.
Angela Irving had her daughter stolen from a Basingstoke maternity ward in 1970; no suspects were ever named and her daughter was never found. Suspicious eyes fell on her but years later both she and her husband are suffering from the aftereffects of losing baby Alice. When she hears the story of the building site baby she can’t help but think her daughter has been found after more than forty years.
A police forensic investigations continue, Kate delves into the history of the Basingstoke street where the baby was found. As she starts to speak to the locals, a flurry of unsavoury characters are uncovered.
One lady who’s desperate for her secrets to stay hidden is publisher Emma Simmonds. She’s done her utmost to move on from her troubled youth but she sees the story in the press she just can’t resist going back to her old home, on the street the baby was found.
After the industry changing popularity of The Girl on the Train, a wealth of psychological novels from brand new authors were published. One of my absolute favourites was (and still is) The Widow by Fiona Barton. I devoured the physical copy I was sent by Transworld Books , so much so I went on to buy the audiobook, which translates into a superb audio experience too. Pick up either format and I promise you’ll be thoroughly entertained for hours. The Widow was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been published in 36 countries and optioned for television.
So when The Child was published, I bought myself a copy the week it was published but I’ve only just gotten around to reading it.
Written in a similar, easy to devour style to The Widow, this story is told from the multiple perspectives or Kate, Angela and Emma. It was a pleasant surprise to meet reporter Kate Waters again as I really enjoyed her relationship with Detective Bob Sparkes in The Widow. Fiona Barton’s real-life experience as a journalist is reflected in Kate’s logical and thorough approach to the case.
Both Angela and Emma’s perspectives are heartbreaking in very different ways. Angela and her husband have had to move on with their lives after the abduction of their baby. They go on to have more children but the damage to their relationship is done. The discovery of the building site baby reopens these old wounds, it makes for incredibly evocative (but sensitively handled) reading.
Without giving too much away, Emma is hiding her own tragic story, leaving Kate to discover much more than she bargained for.
One sign of a great book is when you walk into a room holding a copy and someone’s eyes instantly light up, desperate to discuss it. This is exactly what happened to me at work with The Child; they loved it just as much as I did!
Throughout the book, there’s never a dull moment and each brief chapter finishes in a way to leave you wanting more. Full of twists and turns to keep you guessing, The Child is a superb crime novel that’ll keep you gripped until the very last page (and then you’ll probably want to call your mum).
The Widow caused Fiona Barton’s writing career to begin with a bang; The Child solidifies her as an author I’ll look forward to reading more and more from. I can’t recommend this highly enough.