The Suspect by Fiona Barton, 3.5 Stars

Whenever I think of Thailand and teenagers, I think of Brokedown Palace. The ultimate “be careful traveling internationally” story. You know, Claire Danes–fresh off of My So Called Life fame–and Kate Beckingsale are teen girls vacationing in Thailand when they fall into a trap with a cute boy who uses them to transport drugs without them knowing. And they get caught. And they get sentenced to life in a Thai prison.

It was a horrific story—based on a true story I think–and I was 19 when it came out in 1999 so it so spoke to me. And kept me firmly rooted on U.S. soil–which may have not been the best thing ultimately. I’ve always been a worrier. And having stories and movies that reinforce that have somewhat stunted the free spirited adventure in me. Or maybe it never existed?

Of course even Brokedown Palace pales in comparison to the Otto Warmbier story of being imprisoned in North Korea after pulling a prank of sorts and stealing a propaganda flag from a hotel wall. Heartbreaking, awful story. While I can say there is absolutely no chance I will be going to North Korea, 20 years after Brokedown Palace released,  I worry not for myself, but my kids and the things they will want to do when they are older. I’ve got some time left still. 

From the Publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Widow returns with a brand new novel of twisting psychological suspense about every parent’s worst nightmare…

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth—and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go traveling. 

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think…

My Review:

I devoured Barton’s last book in the Kate Waters series, The Child. It amazed and delighted me with it’s twists and turns, and compulsive readability. So I was thrilled to pick up The Suspect, the latest book in the series.

The Suspect is a bit of a departure from the first two books in the series, as this one takes place in Thailand. Journalist Kate Waters is covering the story, as two girls from her community in the UK have gone missing while on holiday in Thailand.

The plot is richly drawn as we travel first with the girls, Alex and Rosie, to Thailand, and later with Kate Waters as she tries to piece together what may have happened and encounters the possibility that her own son who she hasn’t heard from in 2 years might be involved.

I love Fiona Barton. She is a journalist by trade and it shows. She covers all the right details for the most part and really gets inside Kate Water’s brain. But I did want a little more from this one.

A good friend of mine is a missionary in Thailand and while I haven’t been to visit her (again, where is my adventurous free-spirited side???), I have learned from her visits home, photos and stories about how rich the culture is Thailand. The foods, the customs, the people. I wanted to see more of that from the girl’s stories and from Kate Waters. I understand the main thread of the book was their story. But why base it in such a richly cultural place if you don’t weave some of that through the pages?

Another element I was a little annoyed with is that the story switches back and forth between Alex’s perspective before they go missing and Kate’s as she searches for them. There seemed to be a big chunk in the middle of the book where they stayed in present day too long. I’m not sure why it was offsetting and I think it was done to raise suspense, but I didn’t love that.

Still, Barton spins a good a tale. And if you are a Kate Water’s series fan, this one is a must-read. Special thanks to Netgalley and Berkeley Publishing Group for an e-galley in exchange for my honest review.  It’s out January 22, 2019. Preorder your copy!


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