I’ve had this one on my #TBR for a while now and as a huge fan of Belinda Bauer’s work I was really looking forward to reading this! And I was not disappointed!
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.
But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.
Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.
But the truth can be a dangerous thing …
Having seen some very mixed reviews about this one I was looking forward to getting my teeth into this read! I would say if you were looking for a fast-paced/thrilling psychological thriller then you might have been slightly disappointed. However, I was NOT disappointed! I found this an intriguing and intelligent character exploration which induced some very deep feelings in me as I read and became absorbed in not only the lives of the characters but also in the plot.
Jack Bright and DCI Marvel stole the show for me in this one without a doubt. I defy anyone to read Jack’s story and not be moved by his plight and fully understand the logic behind his behaviours. I was cheering him on every step of the way with the tears streaming down my face!
Without giving any spoilers away Jack Bright ripped my heart out. Everything he did for his family, his internal conflict knowing what he was doing was wrong combined with a need to care for his sisters was so intense. I could feel his emotions through the pages I was howling with laughter at the chapter introducing DCI Marvel. You need to read it to see what I mean. He is not always the most orthodox or PC character but he is definitely one that needs his own series!
The beginning of this novel would tear your heart apart because right from the first page you know that the mum is not going to come back and the outcome is not going to be good for the kids. The issues of hoarding, loss, grief, mental illness are all explored in both a sensitive and thought-provoking manner. There was also an underlying sense of humour about the novel which may appear strange given the subject matter but it worked for me and gave that light relief required in such an intense read
My only gripe was the bit of the story around the capture house that the police set up to find Goldilocks. The author provided no plausible explanation as to how the burglar would know to target this particular property. However, in the grand scheme of things, this was just a minor niggle for me.
I enjoy this author’s writing, it is not for those looking for a high octane fast paced thriller but rather she writes very character driven novels inviting the reader to connect with and make an emotional investment with the characters. I certainly did with two of the characters, Marvel and Jack. I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for an intelligent, character-driven read and I completely support the book’s inclusion in the Manbooker longlist!