Ok, I am going to say it: this is the best thriller I have read. Full stop.
As a mother myself, I was very anxious about this terrifying and emotional topic and worried that I might not be able to read it, but Darren Young has such a flawless way with words, that I became completely submerged in the story and time stood still as Laura, Danni, Sandra, and Jessica’s story finally became clear. On a busy beach, little Jessica Preston wanders off into the crowd and is never seen again. The police believe she drowned, but her mother knows she was taken. Twenty years later and Jessica’s mother is in a psychiatric unit, her father is dead, and her brother, who went into foster care, has his own life. But where is Jessica?
Laura Grainger is working as a trainee reporter but knows that all it takes is one big break to make her career skyrocket. When she comes across the case of Jessica Preston from twenty years ago, it fascinates her, and after talking to Sandra, Jessica’s mother, she believes her. Somebody took Jessica all those years ago, and Laura will do whatever it takes to find out the truth.
Danni Edwards had what many would call the perfect childhood, but now in her early twenties, her life just seems to be spiralling downhill. Her beloved mother has tragically died in an accident, her father has shut down and seems to be hiding something, and her ex-boyfriend is stalking her. And when Danni finds a slip of paper in the back of her mother’s address book, it leaves her with more questions than answers. As the individual characters start to piece the past back together, there are shocking revelations and devastating secrets revealed, some of which may even be deadly.
CHILD TAKEN by Darren Young is excellently paced with short, snappy chapters telling the story from different characters point of view. Laura and Danni are strong, determined and headstrong characters who want the truth and I really admired them, especially Laura. Reading Sandra’s story broke my heart as her life passed before her eyes, waiting and hoping that some day her little girl would find her way back to her. Sandra lost everything the day Jessica disappeared. Her entire life fell apart. And I definitely held my kids a little longer and tighter after reading this novel.
This novel got everything right but it was the emotional element that really stood out for me – I felt their fear, despair, sadness, and terror and for me, that’s what makes a novel really outstanding. While I did suspect some of the twists and turns, it is so fantastically written that I continuously second-guessed myself throughout, and oh my God what an ending.
The suspense, the devastation, the betrayals, and lies, are all on point in this extraordinary debut (Yes, it is a DEBUT!!) and it gave me chills from beginning to end. You have to read CHILD TAKEN by Darren Young – you just have to read it!!!!