When a teenage quarrel in the small town of Heartsdale explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton – paediatrician and medical examiner – finds herself entangled in a horrific tragedy. What seems at first to be an individual catastrophe has wider implications when the autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse and ritualistic self-mutilation.
Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, but the children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it soon becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime.
And unless Sara and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it is going to happen again.
I’m going to start by putting some heavy Trigger Warnings for this book – violence, child abuse, explicit photography. I just about managed to read this but it was hard going and to write this review I’ve had to put on YouTube to calm me down.
You can tell from the book blurb that this plot is complex and, at times, difficult to digest.
I think any crime novel that features children always follows a strict line of plot conduct. You have to be careful when writing about this subject and one of the reasons this book affected me so deeply is because the plot revolves around crimes of children that are very real in reality. We try not to think that these despicable things don’t happen in real life but the sad truth is that they do.
This book contains: murder, suicide, death, abduction, and criminals on the loose. To balance out such a heavy hitting book you have the 2nd time blossoming between Sara and Jeff and also Lena’s struggles.
Now, Lena went through some shit in book 1, so, her spiral here wasn’t surprising. I think I was more surprised to see her functioning than anything else. However, the trauma she experienced in Bk1 drastically changed her and she hasn’t given herself the time to review what happened and get help. One of the running themes of this book is Jeff’s pushing that Lena needs to see a therapist and Lena’s constant avoidance of it.
As a 2nd character, I don’t know where she stood at the end of the book or even if I will see more of her in the series. The character needs time to heal and assess before coming back.
Both Sara and Jeff, as they explore each other and their relationship again, are more open to talking/listening and being vulnerable enough to take down the barriers between them. With so much history between the characters – much of that happening before the book series starts – it’s warming to see it evolve.
I am being purposefully vague about the crime side of this book because I don’t want to trigger anyone or give the game away. I will say that it’s written to perfection, and to write such sensitive content justly is the mark of a good author.
I semi-guessed part of the culprit and while I did guess this fairly early on, I also think the character in question was set up to be a first choice.
The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and there is a good sort of ‘epilogue’. However, there is an unfinished element to the case which made the plot thicken. So, I’ll be keeping a beady eye out for any conclusion on that.
I was very stuck into the reading of this and would think about it when I wasn’t reading it. However, the adrenaline only came after I’d finished the book and was left to think on the book in its entirity.
I do have the next book in the series but I might wait a day or two before I begin it, just to give myself time to process things.
I give this book: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐