In her debut novel Fiona Barton asks the questions of how well do we really know our spouse:
It is a parent's worst nightmare their child being snatched from the front yard without a trace and no suspect, but someone has to have little Bella or know where she is. It's a wife's worst nightmare when her husband is accused of taking Bella. She knows her husband right? But as the police start asking more and more questions and everyone is searching for the truth and she doesn't know if she can face the facts so she chooses to continue to stand by her husband's side. After all he knows best, right?
This is Barton's debut novel and it is probably the best one, in this genre, that I have read this year. The depth of the characters is where she excels in this book and the mystery/psychological parts are well done. This book takes the inclination we all have when a horror story comes out on the news and it turns out the perpetrator has a family, we tend to question about how could the family not know. The fact of the manner is that most of these type of perpetrator are really good at hiding their other side of their lives. They are master liars and manipulators. There are times in this book where you question who is manipulating who as everyone seems to not only wants something but also something to hide. I think that some people will find it a bit slow but it is kind of a slow burn throughout.
I loved the different points of view that Barton decided to use and I felt like she portrayed all of them accurate for this type of situation. For the Detective who wants to do everything he can to find Bella and bring the perpetrator to justice and anything less he sees as a failure and is willing to risk it all to succeed. For the Reporter she wants the story of the lifetime to help save her career, to try to stay on top and while she pretends to be someone friends the story is all that matters to her. For the Widow who stands by her husband never wavering her commitment to him and her belief in his innocence, I mean she would know right if he was guilty. For the Mother, who desperately wants to believe that her daughter will be found alive and justice will be served. For the Husband who has secrets but don't we all have secrets and fantasies that we don't want to share with other doesn't mean that I am a bad man. With a few chapters from the point of view from some of the other secondary and tertiary characters within the book. I will say that the majority of the chapters are for the Widow and the Detective but I enjoyed when some of the other point of views were thrown in to give some new insight and perspective about the case. It's funny though while I like the characters that Barton created I never actually liked any of the characters.
You need to pay attention to the dates of each chapter so you know in the context of the story when that person is, which also means that you need to pay attention to the details in each chapter. This is what created the slow feeling to the book, but I actually think that this enhances the story instead of hindering it.
You will go back and forth about whether Glen committed the act of taking Bella as the information that the police use to go after Glen is circumstantial and there are so many factors that you as a reader can see that are overlooked in the investigation as the police do get tunnel vision (which I am glad that Barton included as I think this makes the case more real as it seems at times police believe they have found "their man" and use the evidence to make it fit). However, Barton counters this by having Glen seem very creepy and while he does not physically hurt his wife you can tell that he has control and power over her. If Glen is not guilty of taking Bella there are quite a few other things that he is guilty of.
The more I think about this book and look back on it, the more that I like it. As I stated above I loved the characters that Barton developed and their interactions with each other. I am excited to see what Barton comes out with next, I'm thinking she is an author to watch out for.