This week we’re going to look at some new thrillers at The Field which turn on the issue of family relations, whether the family member is the person missing, the person setting an example (good or bad) for the protagonist, or the erstwhile criminal himself, and, surprisingly, there are several new thrillers where everything turns on family relations.
Let’s start with Fiona Barton, who made such a splash with her bestseller, The Widow, last year. Her new book is called The Child, and it starts with a disturbing scene: as an old house is being destroyed as part of a gentrifying effort in London, the skeleton of a baby is found, evidently buried for years. Four women are drawn into this mystery, with varying degrees of knowledge and eagerness to find out what’s really going on. The first is Kate Waters, a journalist who recognizes this tiny skeleton as the start of what could be a blockbusting story, though she doesn’t have any idea how far the story will lead her. Another is Angela Irving, a woman whose baby was stolen from the maternity ward decades ago, and who now feels this could be her child’s remains. And then there’s Emma Simmonds, a young woman with a severe anxiety disorder who’s terrified that her past may have caught up with her, and Jude, Emma’s mother who has had a turbulent relationship with her for years. Who was the Building Site Baby and how did the bones end up here? It’s the sort of book that you pick up and find yourself carrying with you at all times, eager to see how it all comes together.
Mary Kubica’s new book, Every Last Lie, also tells a story from two different perspectives, but in this case the perspectives are those of a (now deceased) husband in the months before his death, and his wife, bereft beginning to wonder what, if anything, she really knew about her husband and his life. Nick, the husband, and their four year old daughter, Maisie, are in a car accident that proves fatal to Nick but that leaves Maisie surprisingly unhurt, or at least unhurt physically. Clara, Nick’s widow, would have been willing to see this loss as a tragic accident except that Maisie starts having night terrors about the day of the accident. Is it possible that Nick was killed on purpose? But who would have wanted Nick dead? Clara can’t let the questions alone, and digs deeper and deeper into her husband’s life, and soon everything she thought she knew about him, and about their life together, is called into terrifying question.
Helena Pelletier, the protagonist of The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne, knows who her father is, but she’s spent most of her life trying to keep that from the rest of the world, including her husband and children and the people with whom she works. Her father was no ordinary person: he had abducted Helena’s mother, a teenager, and kept her captive for years in a remote cabin in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, where Helena was born and spent the first years of her life. Helena, like all children, assumed that her reality was normal, and that everybody hunted and fished and roamed the wilds without seeing another human being other than their parents, and she even loved her father, despite his tempers, until she discovered what he was really capable of. Now, after twenty years, Helena’s father has escaped from prison into the marshlands. Helena knows she’s the only one who could possibly track him down, like it or not, and she sets out to find her father, the Marsh King, who’s more dangerous than he’s ever been before.
The parent figure who haunts the background of Meg Gardiner’s Unsub was a police officer, not a criminal, but his shadow looms heavily over Caitlin Hendrix when a killer who terrorized the city years ago seems to resurface. The serial killer, known as the Prophet (and loosely based on the Zodiac Killer of San Francisco, who has never been caught to this day), killed eleven seemingly unrelated victims in the 1990’s, leaving the symbol for Mercury on their bodies afterwards. Caitlin’s father, Mark, was the head investigator on the case, and the mind games the killer played with him, together with his own strong sense of responsibility for the safety of his city, nearly drove Mark insane. Twenty years later, Caitlin has sort of followed in her father’s footsteps, working as a narcotics detective in the same city, when two new victims are found with the Prophet’s marks on them. Could it be the same killer or a copycat? Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings and dives deeply into the investigation of these continuing murders, determined to do what her father couldn’t: find the killer and stop him, without destroying herself and everything she cares about in the process.