Right up front, I'll remind you that I usually don't read "women and children in jeopardy" novels.This is going to sound strange and maybe a little cold, but I read and enjoyed Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas. It wasn't about a child in jeopardy because Sophie Flynn died a year before this book begins.
It's Christmastime, and Detective Chief Inspector Robert McIntyre took the train from his Cornwall home to London to be with his brother's family. But, he's not in the mood to celebrate. His girlfriend, Alison Kendall had moved out. Now, she's a bestselling author, known all over England. He's gloomy and despondent, but he realizes he could be worse. He could be Iris Flynn, who shows up on his brother's doorstep. A year earlier, Iris' three-year-old, Sophie, was kidnapped by her nanny, and found murdered, left at the edge of Penhale Wood. Now, Iris has flown back from Australia, and wants McIntyre, the investigating officer, to reopen the case. She's there because she's shattered. She can't go on until there's justice for her murdered daughter.
McIntyre knows he can't comprehend the depth of a mother's grief. There has been one recent break in the case, but he had refused to deal with it. Now, with Iris demanding answers, he agrees to see a psychic who says she saw the killer and an unusual cat of some sort. Although the psychic's sketch doesn't resemble the missing nanny, that drawing and a photo precipitate events that break the case open, with tragic results.
Thomas' second novel, following The English Boys, is a powerful character study. Thomas scrutinizes McIntyre, Iris Flynn, and Alison Kendall, allowing the reader to have access to their thoughts and feelings. The characters' actions are the results of their daily lives, which makes Penhale Wood all the more striking, leaving readers with a great deal to ponder.
Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas. Midnight Ink. 2017. ISBN 9780738752501 (paperback), 312p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.