This is one very disturbing psychological thriller from a writer who has more than secured her place in my must-read authors with her first two books How I Lost You and Before I Let You In. It is a testament to the writer’s skill that despite the book more than gently touching on supernatural elements, which I normally avoid, that I was able to put this to one side and still enjoy the read, this review should therefore be read with my personal feelings on the subject matter taken into account.
Imogen Reid is moving from private practice as a child psychologist to one who works as part of a social work team who find the resources to support children. Her reasons for leaving aren’t voluntary and as a result the house move and new role do not instantly sit easily with her. One of her first cases is that of Ellie Atkinson, just twelve who lost both her parents and her brother in a fire and is now being fostered by a family with their own daughter and a son who is also fostered.
No sooner have we got some idea about Imogen as she travels to her new role than we meet Ellie in a somewhat bizarre incident full of furious adults. It doesn’t take much longer to realise that Ellie is distrusted by those around her. What I struggled with, as alluded to above is the nature of the distrust but as a story about the behaviour of groups, this is frighteningly accurate and all the more disturbing for that.
There is no let-up in the tension throughout this book, the scenes move at a fast pace with no break at all from incident to incident, scary child to really horrific scenes of bullying from irrational adults to the inadequacies of those who should be helping to actually being able to. As the story raced along my uneasiness about the true nature of the story becoming less entrenched as I began to at least begin to put the pieces of the puzzle the right way up if not managing to make a full picture before the reveal. As might be expected from this author though there were still a few surprises to pull the rug from under my feet.
The scenes in Imogen’s office, especially the lack of technology on the first day, will be familiar to practically anyone who has been in this position and for me it was these scenes that kept me rooted. There are simply so many real truths within the books that I could either relate to or fully believe that the supernatural element became less and less important as the book progressed. The bullying aspect was so well portrayed, some of it far more horrific to read but the endless bubbling of discord amongst Ellie’s peers was an all to accurate picture of how a child, who you would naturally assume is given some sympathy for all she’s been through, is singled out for being different.
I did enjoy the read despite my initial reservations and I’m sure that The Foster Child will be a huge hit with many lovers of psychological thrillers – it is creepy, it is full of tension and it is definitely thrilling.
I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Foster Child which was published for the kindle in September and will be out in paperback on 16 November 2017.