"The Cold, Cold Sea" & "Chosen Child" Linda Huber
Oh this is good! Perfect start to my holiday reading pile!
The book opens with the disappearance of 3 year old Olivia at the seaside on holiday with her parents and brother. The worst fear of every single parent. Maggie, the mother, is so devastated that she cannot bring herself to leave the spot; she cannot stop searching or pressing the very understanding and kind Detective for more updates. Eventually her son's need for her at home forces her to return and face the damaging cracks appearing in her marriage as her husband continues to blames her for Olivia's disappearance.
The second story line is about Jennifer. She is pregnant with twins and already mother to Hailey, aged 5. Her husband Philip has been in the States for ten weeks with his dying grandmother and Jennifer is keeping her pregnancy a surprise for him on his return. However, she is becoming increasingly stressed with Hailey's uncooperative behaviour. She appears to be such a changed child since their recent move and Jennifer is struggling to remain patient with her.
What's exciting about this novel is that the reader is almost 95% sure of what has happened from quite early on so it is not really a case of them solving the mystery but more so a case of tensely watching from behind the cushions as the other characters try to figure out what has happened to Olivia and why Hailey is behaving so strangely..... as the clock ticks away and events begin to spiral completely out of control. I enjoyed this unusually privileged position and found it more engaging and more riveting. I couldn't wait to read on and find if my intuition was right - particularly as Huber is good at throwing in more twists and turns along the way! It was a kind of "can't look but can't not look" book!
I am a big fan of novels which create psychologically gripping characters and Jennifer really is a brilliant example of this. I can't say too much about her without giving any of the plot away but she is convincing, deceptive, unreliable yet simultaneously apparently truthful so it is difficult to work out what is reality and what is delusion. I love characters who function with such "normality" and are highly conniving in their "believability" but really are darker and more dangerous. Jennifer is also a great example of the impact grief can have on the mind and the mental condition.
Teacher Katie is a hugely likeable character. She faces the dilemma of how involved should she get with a pupil when you have a feeling that something is very wrong but no concrete evidence. She cares deeply for Hailey, but how far can she go to intervene? Is Jennifer merely a tired, pregnant woman, new to the area with a temporary absent husband trying her best to get by? Or is something more sinister going on? There are so many inconsistencies and then explanations that it is confusing. Katie needs to protect Hailey and this means careful handling of both mother and daughter. Her role is well written and captures the instinctive commitment good teachers feel for each and every child in their care. I also like the Detective's closing lines that we often don't see things that are right under our noses and that it's amazing what we don't notice. This is true and makes this novel even more disturbingly resonant.
This is a gripping read with a credible plot, good characters and plenty of suspense and tension!
This again features two different story lines about two different families. Firstly we meet Ella and Rick who, unable to have a child of their own, are going through the gruelling procedure of adoption, ignoring the deepening cracks in their marriage and particularly Rick's more reluctant enthusiasm when they choose a 6 year old girl rather than the baby boy he had wanted. Ella's blindness to this because of her desperate need to be a mother, trigger an unforeseeable chain of deadly events.
The second story line follows pregnant Amanda and Gareth and their son, Jaden a lovely 1 year old. But is the baby Gareth's? One mistake sets Amanda and her lover on a path of no return, deeper and deeper into a situation which keeps becoming more and more complex and sinister with every step; hurtling towards a disastrous conclusion from which there is no escape.
Both plots are engaging and begin relatively innocently, appearing to be a straightforward tale of families and parenting. But very quickly it reveals that it is much more than this. This is a novel full of dramatic twists and a really gripping, page turner - all that we have come to expect from Huber!
This is a story of blackmail, secrets, deceit, murder and kidnapping. It explores how from one small untruth, a web of lies can spread and entrap you, tie you up in such a complication of confusion that the only way out is to continue along the wrong path. I loved the character of Rick; he's like Lady MacBeth - haunted and tormented by his one wrong snap decision, unable to "wash his hands of blood"! The way his mind spirals out of control is captivatingly told; his panic and irrationality completely palpable. He becomes less and less connected with the real world as he pushes himself into further dead ends (like MacBeth too!) and the sense of his complete loss of control is brilliant.
The two story lines then collide with such deadly consequences. The way they interweave, cross over, and affect each other keeps the reader on their toes and we have to keep up with every decision made by each character as they all impact on each other. It is a very cleverly crafted plot and seamlessly controlled.
I loved the way the two plots literally "collide". I liked that the two stories had very different atmospheres and issues but then come together to form one really strong conclusion. I found the characters convincing. I thought Huber explored how people are driven to act when under pressure, or when they want something so much, very well. I liked how easy several of the characters thought it would be to rectify a mistake when actually this is the undoing of everything. The truth will always come out and anyone is foolish to think they can control it - or ever ever get away with murder!
Huber is a talented writer and I would highly recommend these books to people who like gripping psychological dramas! They have been perfect for my holiday and I am glad I saved them until now so I could really enjoy them!
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