The Suspect by Fiona Barton is the third novel featuring reporter, Kate Waters, and her police contact, DI Bob Sparkes. It follows her earlier novels, The Widow and The Child, both of which I really enjoyed.
When two 18-year-old girls travelling in Thailand fail to contact their parents for their A Level results, the girls’ parents grow frantic with worry. With very little news on the horizon, Kate is determined to give this story the coverage it deserves – and even travels to Thailand with the worried families.
But Kate is dealing with her own similar issues. She hasn’t seen her 22-year-old son in two years. He says he’s working in a wildlife sanctuary in Phuket, but can Kate really be sure? Could her own story be closer to that of the missing teenage girls than she would like?
Determined to get some answers, Kate and her colleague Joe launch their own investigation which takes them from Hampshire to Bangkok to Amsterdam and back again. Can they get to the truth before Sparkes does?
The story is told from the viewpoints of Kate, DI Sparkes, Lesley O’Connor (mother of missing girl, Alex) and Alex herself. Set over the course of a few weeks in summer, it isn’t entirely in chronological order, so that the full story doesn’t come out too soon. Every entry has a date, so it is easy to keep track of when and where things are happening.
The Suspect paints a really quite horrible picture of backpacker life in Bangkok. While Alex yearned for culture, she ended up with drinking, drugs and a seedy guest house. Unable to admit the truth, she kept her social media updated with happy photos. Alex and Rosie’s experiences and relationship reminded me a lot of the novel, Violet, which I read at the start of the year – another book to put you off the idea of backpacking ever.
The Suspect is a real page turner, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The print is nice and big and it is an easy read – which was perfect for me while I had mild coronavirus. Although featuring the same characters as The Widow and The Child, it’s not necessary to have read them first.