I love a good domestic thriller, and I’m pleased to recommend David Bell’s latest novel Somebody’s Daughter to fans of this particular sub-genre of mystery novels. I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, since the only other book I’ve read by Mr. Bell didn’t work well for me, but this one is surprisingly good.
Michael Frazier hardly thinks about his ex-wife Erica these days. He’s happily married to his second wife, Angela, and the two of them are trying hard to conceive a child. Their marriage might lack some of the spontaneous passion he shared with Erica, but Angela is a stable, loving, responsible partner, everything Erica never was. So, it comes as quite a shock to Michael when a quiet evening at home with his wife is interrupted by a knock on the door, a knock that heralds the re-appearance of Erica into his orderly life.
At first, Michael is tempted to order Erica to go away, but she’s obviously upset and Michael could never resist her tears, so, of course, he asks her what’s wrong. She explains that her nine-year-old daughter Felicity has gone missing, and she begs Michael to help her find the little girl. Michael is understandably baffled by this request. He and Erica haven’t been in touch for years, so it makes no sense that he could be of any help at all in this particular situation. When he questions her further, Erica admits that Felicity is actually Michael’s daughter, conceived just before the two of them got divorced nearly a decade earlier. Michael isn’t sure Erica is telling the truth, but he’s afraid not to go with her. What if Felicity really is his child and he did nothing to help bring her home?
Angela can’t believe her husband has left with Erica. Sure, she knew he’d been married before, but never had she imagined this kind of disruption to the life she and Michael have built together. Suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Michael, their marriage, and their future is called into question, and Angela begins to fear she’s on the verge of losing the man she loves.
The story gets a lot more complex as it progresses, but I’ll leave the details for you to discover on your own. I’ll just say that everyone in the book seems to have something to hide, and part of the thrill of the read comes from trying to figure out whom to trust. This isn’t at all uncommon in a book like this, but Mr. Bell is particularly adept at creating a multi-layered plot that is sure to keep readers guessing up until the very last page.
The story is told in alternating chapters from both Michael’s and Angela’s point of view. At first, I worried Michael’s chapters would contain the bulk of the action, leaving those from Angela’s perspective kind of flat, but this turned out not to be the case at all because the action is pretty evenly distributed throughout the novel. While Michael and Erica are out searching for Felicity, Angela begins digging into the lives of Michael and his family in an effort to understand more about the situation she now finds herself in. She learns some pretty shocking things, and there were times I actually enjoyed her chapters more than Michael’s.
I would have liked to award Somebody’s Daughter a higher grade, but the ending didn’t quite ring true for me. The identity of Felicity’s kidnapper felt realistic, but the way things were wrapped up kind of niggled at me. I felt like Mr. Bell almost ran out of steam toward the end of the book and just cobbled together a neat, tidy ending to appease readers. It wasn’t enough to spoil my overall enjoyment of the story, but it did knock my final grade down a smidgen. Still, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief a little bit and just go with the flow of this twisty tale, you’re sure to find a lot to love.