I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After a stressful week at university, all I really wanted to do was curl up with a nice thriller. I had already read something that was light-hearted so I felt ready for some of the darker stuff. This novel, which was already on my TBR list, seemed like the perfect place to start!
Lorna Bell is just a little girl but she is already considered a nasty piece of work at school. It doesn’t help that she comes from a low-income family and is always looking dirty. She has no friends at school, and is given little attention at home. All of this makes school teacher Claire Penny want to reach out and help Lorna, offer her a little more support and love. As the bond between Lorna and Miss Penny grows, it becomes obvious to Claire that Lorna is not living in safe conditions. As the bruises grow, Claire digs and uncovers a disturbing story behind them. When everyone refuses to believe her, Claire takes it upon herself to ensure that Lorna is safe. But just when Claire thinks everything will be alright, a chance encounter brings a stranger named Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne is energetic, sweet, and kind, but there is something about her that just doesn’t add up. Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what will save Claire from the truth?
I’ll be honest, there is no real twist or mystery. The plot is quite clear from the get-go and only becomes more obvious as the story progresses. Still, this was an interesting story. The first half of the novel focuses on Claire and Lorna, and how victimized Lorna is at her house. In this section, the author really focused on a key issue of society: how to protect children. The author took the time to show how hard it is to get authorities to verify concerns about child abuse, and how reluctant people are when it comes to whistle-blowing. It struck a chord with me because I’ve heard numerous cases where people noticed something amiss but did nothing until too late; it made me sympathize and understand the desperation that Claire felt during this point in the novel. I won’t lie, it dragged on a bit and the author was quite heavy-handed with some of the hints, but the plot was still interesting enough for me to want to continue. In the second half of the novel, we delve deeper into the relationship between Claire and Lorna, and see how the entrance of Marianne disrupts it. This is when things really start to heat up, and I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages. I mean, I knew the general flow that the story was going to take but it was still compelling to read! The final chapters showed that the main characters got what they deserved … but compared to the rush that preceded it, the finale was a bit lackluster. The author also leaves the ending open, and I really didn’t like the implications of it. It made me stop liking Claire’s character, who I had sympathized and pitied for the most part. My final thoughts on this novel is that the author wrote an interesting thriller that deals with protecting a child but there wasn’t really a twist involved in this novel. It was not the best in the genre but it was certainly not the worst.