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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Think of the Children. Kerry Wilkinson. Pan Books (2013)

An enjoyable crime story, the plot is clever and well structured, the story telling does not quite engage the reader with the cast. A fatal car crash reveals the body of a missing child in the boot of the car and a map to to location where items from a much older and colder missing child case are found. The investigation uncovers a list of names of children and then another child goes missing and the investigation becomes a race against time. The story unfolds very well, the reveals are cleverly staged and the plot threads are very smartly handled. The resolution is satisfying bitter and complete.
The plot mechanics that drive the story are excellent, the various elements of the story overlap and interact in an effective way. The investigation is competent and the the flow of the action is thoughtful and considered. The problem with the book is the cast, in particular the lead character, Detective Sergent  Jessica Daniel. While it is a relief that she is not a maladjusted gargoyle with a substance abuse problem in continual conflict with her, remarkably stupid, superiors, she is also not engaging either. This is not for want of trying, DS Daniel is given plenty of time and scope to make her mark on the story and an effort is made to give her an extended life beyond her job as well as to be effective within it. She simply does not transfer well off the page to inhabit the reader's imagination, she remains too attached to the plot.
It is the supporting cast that performs the best, the range of civilians caught up in the events that are swirling around them. Kerry Wilkinson has a gift to bring a character to life in a short space and give then credible, scruffy presence and weight. It may be because they are involved in greater extremes of emotion or action that they glow more brightly than the central players. A effort may have been made to present them as more balanced and that has served to dampen them down a bit. If Kerry Wilkinson was a bit more theatrical with his cast the book would lift more.
The plot has a very nice slice of restrained melodrama in it, the central cast could have benefited from a little less restraint and a little more melodrama to match it.

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