4 / 5 Stars
A real page-turner, plus some very well-realised exploration into social services.
I have to say, I've been having a bit of crime / thriller ennui recently (so many books seem to be so very similar in this genre) that I went in without much expectations. However, I'm pleased to report that this book had much in it that made it stand out - and as an examination of social services (and the level of work they have to do), it was fabulous.
Lizzie escapes an abusive relationship, and moves, with her son Tom, to a new area. It's a chance to start afresh, and she manages to get her son in a top academy. The only thing is, the school has some strange practices, and there's a van driving around, that reminds her suspiciously of her ex-husband's...
The big question in this book is - who is the real villain, and what the heck is wrong with Tom?
For me, the strongest aspect of this book was the inclusion of a social services worker. The author clearly knows the industry really well (or has done an admirable level of research), and really captured the stress and pressure that social workers have to endure. It also provided an interesting take on the classic 'detective' figure - we've got an investigator here who is over-worked, over-emotional and under-appreciated, and that worked fantastically.
The strange events in the school were likewise gripping. The author built a sense of anticipation and mystery that definitely had me turning the pages. And the exploration of domestic abuse was likewise convincing.
For me, the only problem was the ending (or the 'big reveal'). While it was clever, I felt it didn't tally with what had come before; it felt jarring. It also left me asking questions about previous events, which were now thrown into a different light. It's difficult to review this section without giving anything away, but for me, it wasn't quite successful.
However, that aside, I did really enjoy this book. I'd love the author to write something even more focused on social services, as it's such an under-explored (and under-appreciated) line of work.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.