Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: June 4th 2015.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Sometimes a lie seems kinder than the truth . . . but what happens when that lie destroys everything you love?
When Tess is sent to photograph Greg, a high profile paediatric heart surgeon, she sees something troubled in his face, and feels instantly drawn to him. Their relationship quickly deepens, but then Tess, single mother to nine-year-old Joe, falls pregnant, and Greg is offered the job of a lifetime back in his hometown of Boston. Before she knows it, Tess is married, and relocating to the States. But life in an affluent American suburb proves anything but straightforward.
Unsettling things keep happening in the large rented house, Joe is distressed, the next-door neighbours are in crisis, and Tess is sure that someone is watching her. Greg's work is all-consuming and, as the baby's birth looms, he grows more and more unreachable. Something is very wrong, Tess knows it, and then she makes a jaw-dropping discovery ....
What’s with this fictional trend which finds seemingly smart and successful women married to men they barely know, all of whom are inevitably harbouring deep dark secrets behind invariably perfectly polished and dashingly handsome appearances? It’s a trend that lends itself to a sometimes good story, yes, but it’s also pretty much guaranteed to leave me rolling my eyes and wishing and hoping that the women in question will hopefully wise up and grow a brain before they end up in dire straits indeed.
Tess, the protagonist in The Other Child by Lucy Atkins is a case in point. Tess, a photographer who lives in London with her nine year old son Joe is sent to photograph paediatric heart surgeon, Greg, for an upcoming publication. Tess, who is drawn to Greg on sight, more or less because of the guarded, troubled look in his eyes, quickly marries him, falls pregnant and relocates to Boston, where it is evident from the get-go that Greg is not who he seems, and is, in fact, keeping a whole lot of secrets from her. It soon occurs to Tess that she really doesn’t know her new husband at all. Maybe that should have occurred to her before she married him and moved her son half way across the world? Just saying. Also, who is drawn to someone because she sees a troubled look in their eyes? Wouldn’t most people run a mile?
But that’s the problem with Tess. She is sort of slow on the uptake. That’s the main problem I had with this book. OK, so I had a number of problems with this book, but I guess a suspense thriller never really works when the reader is one step ahead of the main player in the book at all times. Even though as a multi-layered mystery, this is well plotted, there are few surprises here. Certain things about Greg are glaringly obvious to the reader for a long, long time before Tess picks up on them. Maybe she’s just blinded by love? I dunno, I never really bought into her relationship with Greg, so I’m not giving her a ‘still in the honeymoon phase’ pass here.
While The Other Child succeeds as an atmospheric read, it lacks tension, and for me was slow moving and repetitive throughout. I love a good page-turner, but this wasn’t it - and it really needed more surprises. I pretty much figured out early on what Tess continued to overlook throughout the book, and by the end I felt that things fell a little flat because I was constantly waiting for Tess to figure out what I already knew – I think a lot of readers will feel the same on this point. I also have to say something about the use of dialogue in this book: there are no dialogue tags whatsoever – no ‘he said’ ‘she said’ – nothing. This made for a disjointed and often confusing reading experience which I just didn’t find all that pleasurable.
The Other Child isn’t all bad. As I mentioned it is well-plotted, if somewhat predicable, and the dilemma Tess finds herself in will appeal to fans of slow-burn family-centric mysteries. As for me, though, I like my thrillers much faster paced and more twist-filled than this. And I’m not a fan of dumbed-down to ‘slow on the uptake’ characters for the sake of plot convenience.