I am a huge fan of “missing children” novels so I was very intrigued by the blurb of Child Taken and knew I had to read it as soon as possible. What I hadn’t been expecting though was that this book would stand out from the crowd, giving me a more thought provoking storyline than the usual psychological suspense. Using a journalist to uncover the truth surrounding the disappearance of two-year old Jessica Preston was a interesting alternative to the normal police investigations used in similar books.

I think it’s every mothers nightmare that all it takes sometimes is just a couple of seconds for your child to disappear from your line of sight. That feeling of utter panic when you can’t see them where you thought they would be is one I’m sure many parents are familiar with! I feel sick just thinking about it! And that’s what happens at the beginning of Child Taken. Moving forward to the present day, we meet with a feisty young journalist who becomes intrigued by the missing child that has been forgotten by everyone….except her mother. Interspersed with her investigations are short chapters narrated by a man who’s wife one day brings home a child who isn’t theirs and also a mum, who one day at the beach loses sight of her young daughter. For me, having those two POV alongside the main narrative was what I found so refreshing about this book. There was no mystery as to what happened to Jessica-we know she has been taken – but as we watched the years pass by we are able to understand how her disappearance has affected those closest to her through their own eyes. This gave me more of  an insight to the emotions felt by everyone affected by this tragedy.

I tried to feel some sympathy for the woman who takes Jessica from that beach but nothing could make up for what she did in my eyes and I became so frustrated with the husband! Why didn’t he stop what was happening? I did feel as though I never really got to know the woman who actually took Jessica as well as I did her husband. She stayed a shadowy figure adrift on the periphery of what she had done. By contrast, I found Jessica’s mothers POV utterly heartbreaking and as the years crept by, it was her story I was drawn to more than any other.

Darren Young has crafted his characters well here, building them slowly as he drip feeds us information about them. This isn’t a fast paced thriller but it has a carefully constructed plot that is driven by the need to discover the truth no matter what the cost. I found myself thinking about the storyline even when I didn’t have the book in front of me, and even had an “alternative reality”  running through my mind where I could see the life Jessica would have lead if she hadn’t been taken. And that’s why Child Taken worked so well for me, I connected with the characters and became so emotionally attached to them that I found them hard to let go of once I had read the ending.

This is an accomplished debut novel from Darren Young. He is a natural storyteller and has such an engaging writing style that I could lose myself in his words all day long. Definitely a name to look out for in the future.


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