This is a very well written book that explores both the nature of family but also the nature of obsession. Dealing not only with the murder of a child but the disappearence of another, the aftermath for the parents of said children and the aftermath for the family of the accused. It also explores the intrusiveness of the media and how events are manipulated and twisted by them to sell the most copy or get the most clicks.
Although I had more or less figured out by half way through the book the reality of the history behind The Flower Girls, this did not effect my enjoyment of the latter half. It may even have increased it as I was able to pick up on all the little clues scattered throughout that pointed the reader in the right direction. The only real puzzle becomes who abducted the 5 year old from the Balcombe or did she just wander off as her parents asserted? The reveal when it comes actually shocked me and was not where I expected things to go with that story thread.
The characterisation throughout is strong. Even Joanna (who I found to be irritating beyond belief) is so well constructed as the Aunt of the murdered toddler that she lives and breathes between the pages. Laurel is particularly complex and you are left with the feeling that you have not even scraped the surface of this damaged soul. Rosie Bowman may have rebranded herself as Hazel Archer to escape her "notorious past" but as things start to fall apart around her you start to see the 6 year old peeping back through, the way the author handles this is wonderfully nuanced and you do get sucked in by the character.
Plotting is strong and well paced. Although it follows some tried and tested thematic schemes it always manages to feel fresh and you do find yourself hurrying through Max's thoughts to get to the next section from Joanna's perspective or Hazel's or Laurel's and then having to go back and force yourself to slow down a little to take in every little bit of it. Each character exists for a reason of the plot but so unobtrusively and naturally that nobody feels like padding.
There are truly chilling moments in this book which, for me, were not really related to the murder of 2 year old Kirstie Swann. They were definitely based around the psychologies of those involved and tended to be almost throw away moments in the text when Laurel or Hazel/Rosie was remembering things from their childhood. Maybe the best exponent of this was when Hazel is reciting her internal that what is happening is real and not make believe. For me this was a summation of the book itself, just one little sentence and yet it encapsulated all that was going on here.
For once a novel that is touted as being a Psychological Thriller actually steps up to the plate and delivers.
THIS IS AN HONEST AND UNBIASED REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK RECEIVED VIA THE PIGEONHOLE.