The Suspect // by Fiona Barton

//published 2019//

Last year I read and quite enjoyed The Widowwhich centered around a (no surprise) widow, a reporter, and a detective.  Later in the year Barton’s second book appeared, The Child, wherein the reporter (Kate) and the detective (Bob) show up again.  While I didn’t enjoy The Child as much as The Widow, it was still a very readable story and I was excited to learn that Kate and Bob would be back for a third installment.

The Suspect felt like a more personal story.  At Bob’s end, his wife is suffering from Stage IV cancer with a very poor prognosis.  Kate’s oldest son, Jake, left the country at the end of the last book (two years prior), dropping out of college and heading off to Thailand to work with sea turtles and “find himself.”  Since then, contact with him has been sporadic at best, and Kate worries that she’s pushed him away or put too much pressure on him in the past.

A call comes into Bob’s station reporting two girls missing.  The problem is that they were in Thailand when they went missing, visiting for their gap year.  They haven’t been missing long, so there isn’t much the police can do at this point.  However, Bob gives Kate a head’s up, and since it’s a slow time in the news, she eagerly jumps on board the story, visiting the anxious parents and learning how the girls ended up in Thailand to begin with.  She’s especially drawn to their story because of Jake being gone.

Once the stage is set, the story really begins to roll.  Kate’s portions are told in first person, with third person sections from the perspectives of Bob and Alex’s mother in between.  We also get short chapters that are comprised mostly of emails Alex is sending home to her best friend. In this way, we see both the outcome and the build-up, even while the reader isn’t completely sure what actually happened.

All in all, The Suspect was an easy 4* read.  The pacing was excellent and the story engaging.  However, my residual feeling when I finished the book was just one of sadness.  I felt really bad the entire book because Alex was SO excited about her trip and had made all kinds of plans and then it ended up being absolutely miserable.  It seemed so unfair and depressing.  It also felt weird to have Kate so involved in the investigation when things got more personal.  Still, I really like Kate a lot, and I also love Bob, and in this book it was really fun to see Kate’s reporter-in-training, Joe, become more of an individual – he’s also quite likable.

Each of Barton’s books can be comfortably read as stand-alones, but it’s enjoyable to see the growth/relationships between the main players by reading all three.  While I’ve found these books rather sad and don’t see myself rereading them, I’m still quite interested to see what Barton produces next.

NB: All book title links go to my own reviews of those books.