“One hot summer’s day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won’t give up hope that her daughter is still alive. After all, a mother’s instinct is never wrong.
Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago.
But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what’s been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.”
I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Child Taken blog tour. Child Taken is written by debut author Darren Young and published by Red Door Books later this week on Thursday 18th May.
Books about children being involved in something terrible are always a tough read for me. I have two young children of my own so novels where the plot revolves around evil things happening to little people are the stuff my nightmares are made of. I always feel a little apprehensive when I first start on a book of this sub-genre and it can go either way. I’ll either really enjoy it or it will leave me feeling cold. Child Taken I thoroughly enjoyed. As much as it is about a child being snatched from her parents and the heartache and devastation that brings, it’s also about love. It’s very difficult for me to expand on this statement without giving hefty spoilers away so please forgive me for being a bit vague on this one!
The book is divided into several parts, each part starting with the thoughts and feelings of the abductor and Jessica’s mother, Sandra. Although the main body of the book is set very much in the present, these short emotional insights span the course of 20 years (one year after Jessica was taken, five years after Jessica was taken, etc.). These sections really added to the emotional weight of the story. I went from feeling anger at Jessica’s kidnappers to my heart aching for her desperate mother. I grew to thoroughly dislike the husband. This mysterious, nameless character however never felt psychologically unstable to me. His love for his wife never felt obsessive or perverse in any way. He came across as a perfectly normal bloke who knows the decision they, as a couple, have made is wrong but given the choice between committing a crime and making his wife happy, he chooses his wife.
But what we all want to know is what exactly happened to Jessica that day. We discover more of her story thanks to Laura, a trainee reporter. Due to a bout of illness at the newspaper offices Laura is thrown head first into a current missing child investigation. She scours the internet for similar cases and discovers that Jessica Preston went missing 20 years earlier down on the south west coast. Laura arranges to see the distraught mother and get another perspective, exactly how does it feel to have your child taken from you? But before heading off on the four hour drive to the south, the missing child is found and the meeting cancelled. Laura feels distraught at letting Sandra, Jessica’s mother, down so arranges to meet with her in her own time. Before long Laura is also convinced that Jessica is still alive and vows to find her and write the story of her career. Only when Danni contacts Laura does she have her lead. Danni is highly suspicious that her father is keeping something life changing from her. Having recently lost her mother in a horrific accident, Danni’s father suddenly becomes secretive and withdrawn, less of a dad and more of a stranger. Memories of a conversation she shouldn’t have overheard suddenly slip into place like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece. And despite searching, there is no proof that her parents are actually HER parents. No birth certificate, no photographs of her as a baby, no proof. Without realising it, Laura and Danni start to uncover something that someone desperately wants to remain a closely guarded secret. And they are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure it stays that way…
This is a great story about ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations and I really enjoyed it. The story was great but oh my, I loved those closing chapters. They, for me, made this book. I was completely hypnotised by what I was reading and there was no way I was going to put Child Taken down. I was mesmerised and appalled in equal measure by how far one of the characters went to keep their secret. Incredibly dark and wonderfully tense writing from the author.
In typical damppebbles style I was trying to work out the twist from the moment I met the first character. I always feel sorry for the author when I’m successful and I felt especially bad this time because it’s such a well written and clever story that I didn’t actually want to be right. But I was. Sorry Darren Young. Being able to predict what was going to happen certainly didn’t spoil the reading experience for me though. I think, by reading only from the crime genre, I’ve become an overly suspicious person (whoops!) which probably isn’t a good thing. Probably…
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s a great debut and I look forward to reading more from Darren Young in the future. Whilst this is a tense and foreboding crime novel, the most overwhelming theme for me was how far some will go for the person they love. And how completely terrifying that can be.
Four out of five stars.
Darren Young was born in 1971 in the West Midlands and now lives in Nottingham with his wife, Luisa and their two children, Alessio and Emilia.
His background is in customer service, working in financial services and then as a consultant in the UK and Europe, then later a director with CSN. He has a master’s degree in business administration.
He’d always enjoyed writing – he used to chronicle his family holidays as a child – and, in his spare time, along with the occasional game of tennis, he wanted to try his hand at writing a real book but didn’t think there was enough room in his already busy life to fit it in.
Luckily, he found a sympathetic coffee shop and plenty of encouragement from those around him and he began working on Child Taken at the end of 2014 after hearing a radio news bulletin whilst in the car and having an idea before the end of the journey that is 95% intact in the published book.