Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay: Review

Zoe Morley is an artist and a mother - it's not always easy to combine the two, particularly when husband Ollie seems increasingly absent, more engaged with his work than with his family. She paints the moors where she lives, and cares for their two children: seven year old Evie who they adopted at birth - the child of a drug-using mother, born addicted - and little Ben, the surprise baby who came along five years later. But Zoe's world is completely upended when Evie begins receiving cards and gifts from someone claiming to be her birth father - a person whose identity they have never known. He wants her back - and he's coming to get her. But who is he and what is he really after?

Sanjida Kay deftly leads us - and Zoe - down various garden paths and moorland trails before the truth is finally revealed.

The Ilkley setting was well depicted and added an atmospheric further dimension (thankfully the little voice insistently singing "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At" at the back of my mind did shut up after a while). It's good to read books with such a distinct sense of place, especially when that place is somewhere other than London.

Something I really loved about this book was how believable and realistic the characters felt. Evie herself was far from a generic child-in-danger but a complex character in her own right, with conflicting emotions and loyalties. Zoe, too, was a character whose actions and reactions, while not always sensible (who is?) always felt credible and human in the context of the situation. The police were neither idiots nor superheroes but professionals doing a difficult job to the best of their abilities. There was only one character, towards the end, whose actions and motivations I found harder to comprehend. 

There are a couple of maybe too convenient coincidences, but the plot is well crafted and kept me engrossed throughout, desperate to find out what had happened to Evie and who was responsible. Sanjida Kay doesn't gloss over the complexities of relationships, including the parent-child relationship - especially when complicated by adoption.

A superior psychological thriller and I will definitely seek out Sanjida's previous novel, Bone by Bone.

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