Desert Isle Keeper
Malia Obama did it. Prince William did it. They’ve become increasingly popular over the last decade or so. Fiona Barton’s The Suspect takes a hard look at the latest hot trend – The Gap Year – and shows that while for some it can be fun, for others it can easily prove otherwise.
Alex had been saving for over a year to go to Bangkok for her gap year. She and her best friend were going to see all the coolest temples, hang out at the local beaches, and take dozens of selfies documenting their awesome time. But when her friend decides not to go, Alex finds herself traveling with neighbor Rosie instead. Alex and Rosie are barely cordial acquaintances but not even doubts about her traveling companion are enough to cool Alex’s excitement about her coming adventure.
When her family goes a week without hearing from her, they grow concerned. Reaching out to the local police and the British embassy in Thailand, they receive reassurances but no real help. They jump at the opportunity to speak to reporter Kate Waters and make their story – and worries – public.
Kate is no fan of gap years. Her own son Jake dropped out of law school over a year earlier to work with turtles in Phuket and the two of them had a heated argument over the decision. She barely hears from Jake anymore and has no real desire to chase after other people’s children following the same dream. The news desk is slow however, and when she gets a tip from DI Bob Sparks about two missing teens, she speaks to the family, determined to get an exclusive human interest piece. She has no idea that soon those two girls will be the center of a whirlwind in her own life.
Told from alternating points of view, this tale is all about simple, ordinary decisions that turn out to have extraordinarily bad consequences. Ms. Barton is the queen of the slow burn mystery and this book is no exception. The plot doesn’t twist and turn so much as it meanders down a slightly curvy road. Initially, it’s not a story that surprises – each new element is not so much revealed as gently introduced and I was able to guess what was about to happen just slightly before it actually occurred. These quiet exposés are actually intensely compelling – the reader becomes deeply engaged in learning whether or not their assumptions are correct and if so, (or not) what that means for the plot.
Then the latter third of the tale simply explodes. Events are not quite what is expected, the truth is very difficult to come by. At that point you are invested in the characters, especially all of the mothers. Just how far will they go to for their children? What effect will each tragic revelation have upon them?
Compelling and addictive, The Suspect slowly sucks the reader in. I think the slow start and the leisurely pace of the beginning might be a turnoff for those looking for an instant thrill, but if you are willing to put in the work, the payoff, in the end, is worth it. The book certainly left me thinking about it long after I put it down.