The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald – a review

After the upheaval of the past few months I’m now back at work as normal which is good (honestly!) Unfortunately this means I’ve had to curtail my addiction to watching back to back episodes of criminal minds. However it does mean lots of train travel again, which if nothing else means good kindle book reading opportunities. Last week I had a trip up to Scotland so armed with my programme for the festival, I downloaded (or uploaded I’m never certain of the difference) some books and got stuck in.

My first read of the journey was ‘The Cry’ by Helen Fitzgerald. She is talking in the session called Worse Things Happen at Home. I think that this was the first book I’ve read by the author which I’m very surprised about as it was excellent.

Joanna, her husband Alistair, and their new baby son are travelling to Australia from Scotland. They are going in the hope of winning custody of Alistair’s daughter. When their son goes missing they become involved in a widespread media campaign to try and find him. However obviously things are not as straightforward as they seem and their lives soon start to fall apart.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away any of the plot. The story is told through the eyes of both Joanna and Alexandra the ex-wife and flits between their viewpoints. There is also a jump around in timeline, as the story slips between what happened on the actual flight, the aftermath after they’ve lost the baby, and also the outcome. This adds to the build up and suspense as everytime you think you know what happened something else changes.

Whilst I throughly enjoyed this novel, I did think that some of the actions of the main characters were a little unbelievable but as I’ve often said, in fiction you have to sometimes suspend the truth a bit to enjoy a good story. Equally I don’t think any of us really know how we would react to a stressful situation until it happens. I thought the description of the crying baby on the plane, and the reaction of the others around her was a great way of building up to the main crux of the plot. As someone who would have been complaining and wondering why the child wasn’t being shut up, I hope that I’d now think twice in that situation. There is a certain element of predictability regarding elements of the plot but I suspect that’s done on purpose as it is used to great effect to build up the tension leading to the eventual, and I thought unforeseen, climax.

I would certainly recommend this book to others, especially if you like the style of story that is being given the term ‘domestic noir’. It’s one of my favourite types of fiction and makes a nice break sometimes from the more hard-nosed style of detective novel, which is not to say these stories are any less gritty or unsettling.

I think the ‘Worse Things Happen at Home’ panel is going to be excellent as alongside Helen Fitzgerald is the lovely Julia Crouch who I was fortunate enough to sit with at dinner last year. Both excellent authors, and I look forward to reading more of their books soon. In the meantime I’ll be downloading the other panellists novels ready for my next trip out.

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Filed under book review, Theakstons Festival

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