Laura Grainger is a journalist working for her local newspaper. When she is asked to cover the case of a local missing child, she is drawn to the story of the disappearance of Jessica Preston, a two year old girl who went missing from a beach over twenty years ago. As Laura begins to delve deeper, she is introduced to Danni, and her investigation places them both in grave danger. Can Laura discover what really happened to Jessica Preston?
At the beginning of Child Taken, we read chapters from the perspective of the person who abducted Jessica and Jessica’s mother. We return to these perspectives at regular intervals as the novel progresses, although the main body of the novel is told mainly from the perspectives of Laura and Danni. I found this approach, and the focus on what Jessica’s life might be like in the present day, quite unusual and this intrigued me from the beginning as I wondered if the abductor would be able to keep their actions secret. I also found the angle quite pertinent in light of the media coverage of the anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the speculation about her life following her abduction, and this gave Child Taken added relevance for me.
In Laura and Danni, Young has created two relatable central characters. When they are both introduced to the reader, we are given the impression that they are twenty something women with interests, ambitions and a family life that could be typical of women of a similar age. As such, I found the realisation that Danni or Laura could be my sister, friend or colleague meant that the dangerous situations in which they found themselves felt more threatening, and I was encouraged to keep reading to see how the situations would be resolved.
My regular readers will know by now that I love a twist, and Child Taken has one that hit me for six. I did not anticipate it, and when I discovered it I found myself mentally scanning back through the novel to work out which clues I’d missed. I did feel that some of the explanations surrounding the twist were rushed and could have been a little clearer and more detailed, but overall Child Taken is an impressive debut which stands out amongst a growing number of psychological thrillers.