On the 19th of February 2016, I wrote; “Fiona Barton has grabbed my attention with her first novel and I’ll be keeping an eye out for future books.” So when I got an email about her new book, you can bet I jumped at a chance to read it! I’m not sure about it though…
As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?
As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss. But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn house by house into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women and torn between what she can and cannot tell.
I wasn’t as immediately drawn to The Child the way that I was drawn to The Widow. How a woman stays with her husband when he’s accused of being a child murderer is a question I’m much more interested in the answer, than whose bones are these. After all, I’ve watched a good eight seasons of Bones. But I also think Fiona Barton is aware of this. Her journalist character, Kate, is constantly fighting to keep working the story throughout the book and it’s an interesting writing choice to actually let the story lag at times with this one determined character trying to keep it going.
The story itself was interesting, and when I finished it I could see how intricately wound together it was. This is no A-to-B mystery. This was a tangle like headphones that are left at the bottom of your bag for a week!
My main issue when I was reading The Child was that all the characters kind of blended in with each other. There was no explicit POC or LGBT+ representation, but even beyond that I had no idea that two of the characters had about 30 years difference between them until the very end of the book. The characters read like cutout paper dolls with a few words added; anxiety, journalist, writer, wants marriage, lost baby. This is so strange to me because when I went back to my review of The Widow, I had made a point to mention how each character had a voice in that book!
I also could’ve done without the line “Kate preferred virgin territory to sloppy seconds.” Even when talking about interview subjects, that phrase is just so gross and slut-shaming.
This one just didn’t work for me in the end. The problems I had with The Widow: the lack of ending, the switches between first and third person and jumping all over weren’t there. But neither were the parts I fell for in the first place.
If you want to try The Child for yourself, you can get it here!