This novel is so gripping I can hardly stop reading.
As I mentioned in my first entry, there are two perspectives and two time-frames. There is Rachel, Ben’s mother, and detective Jim Clemo. From Jim the time frame changes. There are his accounts of the investigation when Ben went missing, and his present interview with his psychiatrist.
The part in the past follows a chronological order. We learn about Ben’s disappearance. Rachel was still trying to come to terms with the fact that her husband had abandoned her ten months before and is now married to someone else. That Sunday she takes Ben and their dog for a walk to the woods, and Ben asks her to go to the swings. He wants to run ahead of her, and even though her first impulse is to say no, she relents in the end. That is the last time she saw him.
When Rachel reaches the swings, Ben is nowhere to be found. As it is natural, Rachel becomes desperate. People in the park start looking for the boy, and Rachel has to call the police. Her ex-husband John is notified, and that evening the only thing that is found is his clothes, taken from the river. It is then that the investigation turns into an abduction one, and DI Jim Clemo is the officer in charge of the case.
I feel so sorry for Rachel. She has had to cope with so much. First, her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Then, Ben goes missing. And bad things don’t stop there. When the police tell her to make a statement for the press, she makes the mistake of letting her mood get the better of her. So instead of reading the speech the police have written for her, she starts threatening the abductor, which doesn’t put her in a good position. She momentarily believes she has done something good and feels triumphant, but when a journalist mentions her smugness and smile, she realizes her mistake. It is then that a campaign against her starts. People leave horrible messages on Facebook and Twitter, and she becomes the focus of suspicion. I am not sure if what we read from Rachel is the whole truth, or if it is only what the author wants us to know. I do believe that Rachel is innocent and Ben was really taken from her. But who by? A stranger?
The press keeps harassing Rachel, and she finds herself locked away at home. Her sister Nicky comes to help, and also her best friend Laura. Nicky is her eldest sister, happily married and mother of four daughters, and we learn that she is her only living relative. When she was just a baby, her parents died in a car crash when their car had a head-on collision with a lorry. Their aunt Esther raised them after their deaths, and even though Nicky had a fluent relationship with their aunt, Rachel never felt the same.
Now the big thing comes when DI Jim Clemo discovers something really shocking. I didn’t expect that at all. Rachel discovers that all her life she had been lied to. Her name is not even Rachel. Apparently, her parents didn’t die in a car crash, but they committed suicide. Rachel had a brother, who she realizes looked like Ben, who had a terrible disease, and when her parents couldn’t cope with looking after their son, they killed him and themselves, leaving the two girls behind. Aunt Esther decided they should start from scratch, and decided the girls should have a new name. Nicky knew all this along, but she never told Rachel. What is also shocking is that there is something sinister in Nicky. She talks about Rachel with hostility and even hatred. She says she didn’t deserve to have a husband like John or a son who looked like their brother Charlie. Nicky thought she was incapable to look after Ben, and at the beginning she kept calling John to ask about Rachel and how she was coping. Apparently, John claims that her interest sounded very unhealthy. Nicky claims that she didn’t want Rachel to have Ben, but she didn’t want him either. I never expected that. Nicky sounds so capable and loving, and underneath she had all these horrible feelings for her sister. The police have a new suspect, but I think Nicky can’t have abducted Ben. I wouldn’t think she would go that far. Besides, where would she have taken him?
So interesting!!! Will we learn who took Ben? In the prologue Rachel mentions that a year has gone, but now I am not sure if she said if he is still missing or simply that a year has gone since she last saw her son. And what about Jim? Why did this case affect him so much that he is now being tested in her suitability to keep his job? What happened to him?