Sunday, 16 June 2019

Post on Father's Day...

It’s Father’s Day, and I hope dads everywhere are being treated to something special today.  I’m enjoying a few treats myself. I have a slice of freshly baked Date Bread, a delicious Date Bar from City Cafe, and the first of our local strawberries - yum!  I’m also using a new mug made by a local potter, and so far it fits all the criteria required to make it part of an enjoyable tea-drinking experience.
Before I start this post, I wanted to mention that I may not be writing a post next weekend, as I have a busy day on Saturday and I’m going out of town on Sunday to visit my elderly aunt, which will make it difficult to find time to write.  I’ll see what I can do, but if you don’t see or receive a post next week, that’s the reason.
Last week I read a great British mystery-suspense novel, What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan.  Recently divorced Rachel Jenner and her eight-year-old son Ben are walking in the woods with their dog, Skittle, one Sunday afternoon, as is their routine.  Ben asks if he can run ahead to the swing, and Rachel reluctantly says yes in an attempt to allow him a bit of independence. When she reaches the swing, Ben and Skittle are nowhere to be found, and it takes Rachel just a few seconds to realize that her son has been abducted.  When a massive search through the woods by police and concerned citizens results in the discovery of the dog but no Ben, Rachel is frantic. The case is given to Detective Jim Clemo, who is keen to take on a high-profile case in an effort to prove himself to his boss, DS Fraser.  He recommends his girlfriend, DC Emma Zhang, as the Family Liaison Officer, and together they gather information from Rachel that may help find Ben as quickly as possible. What they hope will be a quick result ends up taking far too long, and with too many suspects and not enough firm leads, this case has devastating psychological impact on many of the key players, including Clemo and Zhang.  Complex plot twists and red herrings abound until the final satisfying conclusion to this taut thriller that kept me wondering to the very last page. I listened to the second book in this series, Odd Child Out, not long ago, so I knew that Clemo had issues with the way he handled this case. This may have skewed my reading a bit, as I was mostly concentrating on how he was messing up rather than taking the novel as a whole.  It was written from the points of view of Jim and Rachel, as well as including transcripts of Jim’s post-case sessions with the department psychologist, which suggests that Clemo has been deeply affected by the outcome of this case.  The text also includes posts from an online blog concerned with finding Ben, offering the reader insight into ways that online media can affect an investigation and influence the public opinion of the parent of a missing child. It was a bit overlong, but it was cleverly crafted, the characters well-rounded and the scenarios credible.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological suspense novels involving missing children or family secrets.
And I listened to an audiobook last week by Mel McGrath, Give Me the Child, which turned out to be surprisingly good.  Child psychiatrist Dr Caitlynn/Cat Lupo and husband, games designer Tom, are sound asleep after a rather drunken evening when a knock on the door awakens them.  What they find waiting for them on the other side of the door is Ruby, an eleven-year-old girl who is the result of a fling Tom had years earlier, when Cat was pregnant with their daughter Freya and experiencing a bout of prepartum psychosis.  Ruby’s mother is dead, the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Tom is listed as the next of kin. This comes as a total shock to Cat, but she realizes that she must adjust her initial response and welcome this child into her home.  This becomes more difficult when unusual things begin to happen in the household and the behaviour of Freya, initially welcoming towards her half-sister, begins to alter in negative ways. She suspects that Ruby is the cause of these occurrences, as well as the negative influence on Freya, but she has no way to prove it and Tom refuses to acknowledge the problem.  Instead, he accuses Cat herself of having recurring mental health issues and threatens to have her committed if she continues to suggest that Ruby is anything but a well-adjusted young girl. Are Cat’s suspicions real, or is she being paranoid? Is Ruby showing signs of psychopathology or are her actions merely the result of her difficult early childhood and the recent death of her mother?  And does Tom really not see what is happening, or is he hiding something? This was an awesome psychological thriller that asks us to consider what could happen when a child displaying psychopathological traits is left untreated. Think We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Defending Jacob - not a bad combination at all!  I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook, and felt that the author managed to offer an ending that tied up all the loose ends without feeling contrived.  Great book and interesting narrator, too.
That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the day, but make time to read, too!
Bye for now…
Julie

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