The novel focuses on the reactions of four women to the discovery of a long-buried infant’s skeleton on a building site. Kate Waters, a reporter, decides to investigate this case in the belief that there is a human interest story to be written. Emma Simmonds, who once lived in the area where the body was found, becomes panicked when she reads about the finding of human remains. Jude Massingham, Emma’s narcissistic mother who forced her daughter to leave home at 16, also becomes anxious at the news. Angela Irving, whose newborn daughter Alice was kidnapped from the hospital, is convinced the bones belong to Alice. As Kate delves, more and more secrets are uncovered and the lives of the four women become entwined.
The book is an easy, quick read. The division into short chapters (alternating with the viewpoints of the various women) quickens the pace. The reader does not have to do a great deal of thinking to guess what is supposed to be the big plot twist at the end. To the author’s credit, there are a great number of clues to steer the reader in the right direction. I found, therefore, that there really wasn’t a great deal of suspense; I read just to find out if I had correctly guessed the ending. Readers will probably find the conclusion emotionally satisfying, but I found it rather melodramatic.
The book examines how tragedies in the past affect the emotional lives of people in the present. Obviously, the loss of Alice has devastated Angela and affected her relationships with her husband and other children. When tragedies are kept secret, there are also consequences. Emma, for example, has a secret she has shared with no one, not even her husband, and her relationships with him and her mother are affected.
I did not always find Kate a believable character. For instance, people’s willingness to speak to Kate, I found problematic. People are usually reticent to speak to journalists but she manages to get everyone to talk to her. Even the police co-operate with her. Sometimes she just seems too much like a know-it-all. At one point, a detective asks Kate, “’Any news on forensics?’” and she replies, “’Nothing yet. What we need is to get the Met to look at Angela’s DNA. I was going to call the detective in the building-site-baby case to suggest it . . . ‘” She has to tell the police how to do their job? When Angela awaits DNA test results, she asks Kate, “’You will ring as soon as you hear, won’t you? Promise me.’” A reporter would know such test results before the person whose sample was taken?
Like Burton’s first novel, The Widow, this one makes for a good summer read. It is undemanding and sufficiently interesting to while away a few leisurely hours.