by Darren Young
How could such a thing happen?
But it did happen.
I wasn't one of the others, observing.
It happened to me.
One hot summer's day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won't give up hope that her daughter is still alive.
How can she?
Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago. But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what's been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.
A man tells of the time his wife returned home with a small child in tow that he’d never seen before.
A mother tells of the time her child went missing, never to return.
Young Jessica was lost on a beach. It was hot, busy, and noisy. She headed for the ice cream van. Then a woman offered a helping hand, the hand of an abductor.
Part One, twenty years later.
Danielle (Danni), a dentist’s receptionist with a seemingly ordinary life and boyfriend, overhears a rare cross word between her parents, her mother saying, “She’ll find out one day.”
Before long, a car has exploded at the bottom of a ravine, and Danni’s life is about to go up in smoke. Her father becomes distant, he’s selling the family home. Before he can, Danni finds a leaflet stating ‘Missing Jessica Preston’. When Danni can’t find her birth certificate further questions arise.
Meet Laura, a fledgling journalist, her father a surgeon, her mother a homemaker. After a bout of illness strikes the staff at the local paper, Laura gets to work on a story that leads her to investigate a missing child. The resolved investigation throws up a chance of a bigger story, about a mother’s insistence that her child was snatched and how that has affected her. Can Laura solve a twenty year old mystery?
Danni and Laura’s paths inevitably cross. External and family confrontations ensue. The book has elements of an old Hitchcock movie, Suspicion perhaps. There’s even a Hitchcockian cliff-top chase. The devastation of having a child go missing is well handled, a mother’s heartache never far from the surface. We hear from the key players at various stages in the story, if only for brief reminders, and the short chapters and changing POVs work well.
Undoubtedly a page-turner, Child Taken shows how one person’s actions can have lasting repercussions, just waiting to come to light and ruin everything. It's also about loss and the damage it can do. The dark undercurrent accompanying every parent’s worst nightmare makes for a memorable read.
Some of the plotting, by way of the characters’ decisions, are perhaps more for the benefit of the plot than for realism, nonetheless, it’s a fine debut.
About Darren Young:
Darren Young lives in Nottingham with his wife, Luisa and their two children, Alessio and Emilia. Away from writing, his background is in helping organisations improve their customer service, working initially in financial services and then as a consultant in the UK and Europe. He has a master's degree in business administration from The University of Wolverhampton. He's always enjoyed writing he used to chronicle his family holidays as a child and wanted to try his hand at writing a book for a while but didn t think there was enough time in his already busy life to fit it in. Luckily, he found a sympathetic coffee shop and plenty of encouragement from those around him and he began working on Child Taken at the end of 2014 after hearing a radio news bulletin whilst in the car. The story ninety-five percent of which made the final version was complete in his head before the end of that journey. He is especially interested in how ordinary people deal with extraordinary situations that 'could happen' but that, thankfully, few of us ever have to face. Darren is currently writing his next novel