Kay's taut, psychological crime tale of every parent's worst nightmare
Sanjida Kay's first thriller, Bone by Bone, went straight to the Amazon Kindle best-selling list and was nominated as one of the best crime and thriller books of 2016. Her latest, a psychological page-turner, The Stolen Child, with the compelling strapline 'Seven years ago you stole my child. Now I want her back' is sure to do likewise.
Having opened in London with the birth of a baby girl to a drug-addicted mother, the narrative moves forward seven years, to the home of Zoe and Ollie Morley who adopted the baby at birth, named her Evie, and took her back to where they grew up on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. Now settled in suburbia with Evie and their two-year-old toddler Ben, life is hectic for the couple with Ollie, an accountant, working long hours to fund their middle-class lifestyle, and artist Zoe juggling the needs of two young children with her artistic endeavours.
There's also their worry about Evie; is her strange behaviour merely the result of sibling jealousy, or the long-term effect of her mother's drug abuse when pregnant with her?
Frustrated by her responsibilities, feeling neglected by her increasingly distant husband, and resentful of having to do the lion's share at home, Zoe is wide open to the attentions of Harris, a taciturn but strangely compelling fellow artist who appears from nowhere to nurture and encourage her artistic talent.
So flattered and captivated is Zoe that she fails to question her daughter's progressively curious behaviour - until she discovers hidden letters and gifts to Evie from someone claiming to be her real father.
Then Evie disappears, abducted from the school gates by a stranger in broad daylight and taken God knows where. As the police play good cop, bad cop, the finger of suspicion moves from one character to the next.
Who had the motivation and opportunity to abduct Evie? How did they manage to do so without attracting attention? Where is she being hidden? Can she be found before any harm is done?
As the narrative speeds up against the wonderfully atmospheric backdrop of the Yorkshire moors, the reader is swept along, feeling Zoe's self-reproach, panic and helplessness, and questioning the credibility and motivation of even the most seemingly benign characters.
This is a book that triumphs both as an-edge-of seat whodunit and a psychologically perceptive study of the impact of grief, loss and alienation. An excellent piece of work.