Well Caroline, you did it again. This story was captivating from the offset, my heart leapt through every page, my feet ran every step. This is a magnificent read, every step of the way. Where to next?
I confess that THE SECRET CHILD is the first book I have read by Caroline Mitchell despite it being the second in the DI Amy Winter series. And yet, the book works well as a standalone. Though for more of an insight as to Amy's history and what has lead her to where she is now, then I advise reading the first book before this one as it sets the tone for the series. Although I have yet to read it, from all I can gather it really does marks the beginning.
THE SECRET CHILD begins with four year old Ellen being taken from her bed in the middle of the night, kidnapped by a stranger. But the parents delay in reporting her disappearance. Why? Then her mother Nicole receives a package containing four vials with instructions that one of them is poisoned but she must drink one for her daughter to be freed. However, Nicole drinks the one that is poisoned and when her husband, the famed Dr Curtis, arrives home he discovers his wife on the floor bleeding and unresponsive. Luckily, DI Winter and her team arrive with the intention of questioning the couple and Amy jumps in performing CPR in an attempt to resuscitate Nicole. Had they not arrived when they did, Dr Curtis would have seemingly let his wife die! And he, a doctor!
It soon becomes clear that Dr Curtis headed up the Curtis Institute where, in the 80s he was paramount in the psychological experimentation of children. And one of them is back for revenge - but is he? The kidnapper claims to be Luka Volkov, the once six year old child prodigy of the doctor who came from Russia with the promise of a scholarship and a better life. Only to be imprisoned to participate in a study for children like Luka. The problem is...Luka is dead, the tragic victim of a fire that destroyed the institute, along with his mother Sasha. Could Luka really be alive?
Soon after, another child goes missing on his way home from school. But the kidnapper was faced with a conundrum. Little Toby was in a wheelchair - and he had not bargained on that. But it was too late, the wheels were in motion, the regular taxi driver was unconscious in the boot and the kidnapper was in his place. Then Toby's father receives a couriered package, also with four vials, also with the same instructions to choose one to drink for Toby to be freed.
It seems the kidnapper "Luka" is working his way through those who worked at the institute - Dr Curtis, his assistant Deborah Macauley, and orderlies Stuart Coughlan and Christina Watson - and targeting their children.
But the kidnapper is playing a game. And his pawn is DI Winter. Sending her on random journeys across London with the promise of finding Ellen and then Toby...but always to arrive too late to save them. As the net closes in, he admits he set her up to fail. She was never going to find the children for he was never going to let them live.
While investigating the case, DI Winter's past comes to light via a complete published account written by her journalist ex-fiance Adam Rossi, still smarting from her refusal to give him another chance, and hand-fed by convicted serial killer Lillian Grimes with her own axe to grind. Despite being under scrutiny from her team and the public, Amy continues to investigate the missing children and the links to the experimental studies in the past endeavouring to solve what has turned out to be a very sordid and convoluted case.
THE SECRET CHILD is by far an interesting cat and mouse thriller. It is intriguing, compelling and incredibly intense as the reader follows the investigation alongside Amy and her team but also the taunting by the kidnapper as he leads them on a merry chase through London.
Told in dual timelines (a real favourite of mine) with Luka as a child and the psychological experimental study conducted in late 1984 and early 1985, and the investigation - and all that surrounds it - in the present day. There is so much going on in the story with every every character playing an important role. Even those involved in the experimental studies in the past, every victim, everyone in both timelines is a fully developed character. Each have their parts to play and they are played well as each character is seamlessly weaved into the story. I couldn't find a gap throughout, as everything blended seamlessly together in a steady narrative.
I really liked Amy, and I am not usually a fan of female leads but she is what I call real. Not a beefed up female version of bad cop and even badder cop. She is flawed, yet she has strength that doesn't make her a bitch, with a past that makes this series one with a difference. Although I have not read the first book, I was given enough background to make the necessary connections and it certainly didn't deter my enjoyment.
While I have not revealed just what Amy's past contains and how it has serious repercussions on her personal life as well as coming to terms with it, it is no secret in this book. And I feel the reader is given enough information without having to read the first book. That said, although this book can be read as a standalone I believe it would be made better by reading both.
A solid police procedural with a definite difference, THE SECRET CHILD is a compelling, thrilling and completely intriguing you won't want to put it down! Even piecing together the breadcrumbs scattered throughout the story and drawing my own conclusions as to the identity of Luka and who else was involved did in no way deter my enjoyment. It was utterly brilliant!
I would like to thank #CarolineMitchell, #NetGalley and #AmazonPublishingUK for an ARC of #TheSecretChild in exchange for an honest review.
I am a big fan of Caroline Mitchell books, especially the police procedurals. DI Amy Winter is such a complex character and one that I truly can't get enough of. I am really looking forward to seeing where she goes in the next books in this brilliant series. I did not want to put this book down, completely sucked into the story.
Amy is still trying to come to terms with the bombshell revelations from the first book. She is trying to keep it a secret from her colleges and the public but it has changed the way that she sees the world. She is single again and throws herself into her work. The case is is time is challenging, 2 kids have been taken and the kidnapper will only talk to Amy. As the investigation continues it seems that the parents are hiding deep dark secrets from their past. The book jumps from the present to the past as we learn about these secrets and find out who would want to hurt these families.
If you haven't read any of these books then I strongly suggest that you grab them now.
Fast paced, a gripping storyline, totally believable characters. This book is hard to put down as you are led into a thoroughfare of mind boggling events. Love the language and flow of the story, very easy to read.