Review: Stolen, by Rebecca Muddiman
Abby Henshaw is a doting mother to her baby daughter, Beth, until one horrific day when they are attacked on the way to a visit a friend and the child is taken. As the police begin their investigation, DI Gardner is determined to unravel Abby’s complicated family life and find the baby.
Days go by and there is still no sign of Beth. Traumatised by her ordeal, Abby is adamant that her baby is alive and she will get her back. But will she fall apart first?
This is the first book I’ve come across in a long time where the opening has chilled me so completely. Reading the first few chapters, I found myself physically tensing up as Abby is brutally attacked. I’m not a parent myself, but the description of her agony at discovering her baby is missing is heartrending and believable. Watching Abby turn inwards and isolate herself from the world, focusing only on her desire to find Beth, succeeds in drawing the reader into the emotional heart of the novel right from the beginning.
Structurally, this is a novel full of parallels. There are several parental relationships running throughout the book, which raises the issue of what it means to be a good parent, especially since the consequences of failure might be to have your child ripped away. As the novel progresses, there is a second missing child case and it is that which ultimately drives forward the action in the Henshaw’s case.
Author Rebecca Muddiman is from Redcar, which is just down the road from me and is where the majority of the novel is set. It’s interesting to read a story set in your local area, but sometimes jarring as you become more aware of the place names and begin constructing a map of the locations in your head. However, that’s no bad thing and it would be fantastic to read more fiction set on Teesside.
Stolen is a really engaging read, with short chapters and a twisty plot that make you keen to find out what is about to happen. I did find some of the characters a bit stereotypical, but as the focus is so squarely on Abby, and to a lesser extent DI Gardner, there is not as much room to develop the secondary characters. Throughout the early chapters there are enough clues to give the reader an idea of who is responsible for Beth’s disappearance, but the full story is only revealed towards the end of the book.
This is a dramatic and powerfully written debut psychological thriller; the family aspects of the story remind me of Sophie Hannah’s work and will capture the imagination of fans of the crime genre.
Stolen is published by North East based Moth Publishing, a collaborative venture between New Writing North and Business Educational Publishers. The book was one of the four winners of the inaugural Northern Crime Competition in 2011, alongside To Catch a Rabbit by Helen Cadbury (reviewed here soon), Behind Closed Doors by Michael Donovan and Rant by Alfie Crow. All four novels are published today, Thursday 30th May.
Author Rebecca Muddiman will be launching her book with a signing at Guisborough Book Shop on Tuesday 4th June at 6.30pm.
Please note: this review is based on a free advance copy of Stolen, which I received from New Writing North. All opinions are my own.