Wednesday 9 January 2019

Book Review: THE SUSPECT by Fiona Barton

Title: The Suspect
Author: Fiona Barton
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Read: January 2019
Expected publication: 24 January 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years since he left home to go traveling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

My musings:

The Suspect was my first book by Fiona Barton, and I’m hooked! I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the way the author managed to engage not only my interest, but also my emotional connection to events playing out on the pages.

The Suspect tackles one of a parent’s worst nightmares: for two families, it means the death of their teenage daughters in tragic circumstances whilst on an overseas trip to Thailand. For another, it means facing up to the fact that their son could be linked to the girls’ final moments. How well do we really know our children? This is a theme that dominates this latest offering by Barton, who doesn’t shy away from addressing some dark and scary premises that made me shudder! Like Alex and Rosie, I packed my bags and went travelling in my gap year between school and university, hitchhiking with barely a thought to any potential dangers out there. It wasn’t until my own children embarked on their own independent travel that I visualised all the disasters that could befall them, from minor catastrophes like lost luggage to missed planes, illness or accidents in faraway lands.  The helpless feeling of not being able to protect your children is beautifully portrayed here, in the tragic aftermath of the two girls’ deaths, when their parents have to travel to Thailand to claim their daughters’ bodies, looking for answers how they died – all of which was not easy reading.

Barton uses several POVs to tell the story, which worked very well for me here. One (heartbreaking) aspect is told through the eyes of Lesley, Alex’s mother, who has just found out that her daughter has died in a fire in a Bangkok hostel. We also hear from Kate, a journalist covering  the story, and DI Sparkes, the detective sent to investigate. One thread, which starts when the girls first set off for Thailand, tells of the events leading up to the girls’ deaths, containing some of Alex’s reflections and emails to her best friend. I found the dynamics between Alex and Rosie particularly interesting, as they reflected some of my own experiences of backpacking in my youth, when you first discover that your travel companion may not be as compatible as you originally thought. I will not go any further into the story for fear of giving something away, other than to say that journalist Kate soon finds herself drawn into the story in a very personal manner that will also push a lot of buttons for parent readers.

Barton vividly evokes not only the atmosphere of the Bangkok hotel the girls find themselves stranded in, but also of the nightmare of parents trying to find answers to their questions in a foreign country and a culture very different to their own. I found all her characters authentic and believable, and particularly enjoyed Kate, who I discovered has featured in two previous novels (which I will certainly read now). Whilst some aspects of the mystery did not come as a total surprise, the final reveal still packed some punch and gave a lot of food for thought. I read this book as a group read with the Traveling Friends group and found that it made for a great discussion and further enhanced my reading experience. Even though this is part 3 of a series featuring Kate Waters and DI Sparkes, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Highly recommended to lovers of mysteries, and those looking for a new book club read that will raise some great talking points.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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