My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published by Harper, 2017; listened to on Audible
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.
Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.
As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?
I very rarely read crime novels or anything that might be considered “Thriller”, but this book came so highly recommended that when I saw it on Audible, I downloaded it on a whim. And I am so glad I did. I have talked elsewhere on the not so brilliant reading month I had and how I had promised myself to finish the books I had started before choosing another but for this I am glad to have broken my own promise.
Written in lyrical language steeped in the words of myths and fairy tales this is a crime novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend. The atmosphere Rene Denfield has created here was my absolute favourite part of the book. I adore the way in which she builds her world around the fairy tales she references while never losing its base in reality. This is a deeply unsettling book under the beautiful language; there is violence here barely hidden under euphemisms; and I thought this contrast worked really well. The violence and horror of child abduction is never sugar-coated but it is also not gratuitously violent. I was figuratively glued to the page and just could not stop listening, even though big parts of the mystery at heart are no mystery to the reader.
There were, however, some parts that did not quite work for me. Most importantly, I found Naomi a little bit underdeveloped, especially when compared to the snow girl. The Love story did not work for me either, but this is probably just a me thing (I read books with love stories at the centre even rarer than crime novels).
At the heart, this is a book about survival, about resistance, and about the importance of human contact. Naomi and B are different sides of the same coin but with vastly different experiences and narratives. I adored this.