Perfect Little Children
When you read as many thrillers as I do, it can sometimes be hard to feel like you’ve discovered something new and different. I picked up Perfect Little Children, the latest novel from author Sophie Hannah, because the blurb sounded unlike anything I’d read before. Fortunately, the synopsis didn’t let me down and I now have a new author to keep track of.
It’s been twelve years since Beth last laid eyes on her best friend Flora. If you were to ask her, she’d be unable to tell you exactly why their friendship ended, and yet the two haven’t had contact in all that time. In many ways, Beth’s life has moved on. She has a successful practice as a massage therapist, her marriage is fantastic, and her children are happy and healthy, but there’s a part of her that still wonders what ever became of Flora and her family.
One morning, after dropping her son Ben off at a sporting event not too far from where Flora supposedly moved, Beth decides to drive past her house simply to catch a glimpse of her former friend. She knows it’s kind of a creepy thing to do, but she figures no one will ever know. But when she catches sight of Flora and her children getting out of their car, Beth realizes something is terribly wrong, and what started as a need to satisfy her curiosity quickly becomes something much deadlier. You see, Flora looks just as Beth expects, basically the same but a little older, but her children don’t appear to have aged at all. Thomas still looks like he’s five and Emily still looks like she’s three, but how is that possible? They should be teenagers by now, and Beth finds it all but impossible to drive home and forget what she’s seen.
As days pass, Beth is unable to get Flora and her children out of her head. She knows what she saw doesn’t make the least bit of sense and she decides to try to learn the truth. Her husband agrees the situation is strange, but he doesn’t want Beth to get involved, but she doesn’t heed his advice and begins trying to make contact with Flora.
The story takes off from there, and it’s a wild ride for sure. Sophie Hannah is a masterful writer, dropping tiny clues that at first seem meaningless but take on huge significance as events unfold. You will have to suspend your disbelief a time or two though, as some of the twists do feel a bit over the top. Still, the story kept me reading late into the night, and I certainly don’t regret the time I spent with these characters.
Beth got on my nerves some of the time, but her inability to leave well enough alone is the force that drives the narrative forward. If she’d been a touch less tenacious, this would have turned out to be a very different book, so it’s necessary to embrace Beth, flaws and all. She’s kind of reckless and a little selfish, but her heart is in the right place. She wants the best for Flora and her children, even if it doesn’t always feel that way to the reader. I cringed at some of her actions, but I could also understand what was prompting them.
Parts of the book are pretty dark, so fans of lighter, fluffier reads might want to steer clear. The violence isn’t overly graphic, but there are certain plot elements that could prove difficult for some readers. It’s hard to be specific without spoiling the big reveal, but do exercise some caution if you’re easily disturbed.
I wouldn’t call Perfect Little Children the latest literary masterpiece, but it is an absorbing bit of escapism. It’s the kind of novel you’ll hate to put down even as you’re questioning the good sense of some of the characters. At its core, it’s a fun read, not meant to be taken too seriously, and it excels at hooking the reader in and refusing to let go until the final page is turned.