Monday 27 May 2024

The Wrong Child by M J Arlidge & Julia Crouch BLOG TOUR #TheWrongChild @mjarlidge @thatjuliacrouch @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #BookReview


When 3-month-old Max is abducted, his parents are plunged into their worst nightmare. Devastated mum Sarah only took her eyes off him for a second, but that doesn't stop her guilt. Even husband Jake can't hide his anger that their little boy went missing on her watch.

By contrast there are smiles and celebration at a caravan park in Lincolnshire, as baby Blaze is introduced to the Star family. Jenna and Gary are delighted with the new addition to their family. He is their fourth child and a real object of delight to their eldest - fifteen-year-old Willow - who once again will raise the child.

But trouble is brewing for the Star family. Willow is concerned by the desperate online appeals from Sarah and Jake, baby Max has neonatal diabetes and without regular treatment will die. As baby "Blaze" becomes seriously ill, Willow makes a shocking discovery. What is the truth about her family? And how far will they go to hide their deadly secret?

The Wrong Child by M J Arlidge and Julia Crouch is published by Orion on 30 May 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Compulsive Readers Blog Tour 

I am a huge fan of Julia Crouch's writing, I've read all of her novels. I haven't actually read anything by MJ Arlidge before, but am very aware that he has a massive fan base and is hugely successful.  I'm always intrigued by these author collaborations, I'd love to know more about the whole process. The plotting, the actual writing etc, it's a fascinating concept as I've always believe that novel writing is a very solitary career. 

This is most certainly a book of two halves. Whilst I enjoyed the character building and the scene setting at the beginning of the novel, I did find it quite difficult to settle into. It's a slow burner for quite a while, and although I'd worked out how the two families were connected, it wasn't until the introduction of one, very key character, around half way through the book that I began to feel the tension. 

Sarah and Jake's little boy Max is just three months old. Sarah is really struggling with life at the moment, with two other small children to care for, and little help from Jake, she's really distressed. Feeling dowdy, and missing her professional life and colleagues, she admits to a friend over lunch that she didn't really want another child, but that Jake had promised to help out more. She's never openly admitted this to anyone before. 

After her lunch date, and a few glasses of wine, she decides to take a detour through a local nature conservation area. She only takes her eyes off Max for a matter of minutes, and is relieved that he's stopped his incessant crying. Leaving the cover over his pram, she goes home. It is then that the devastating discovery is made. Max is gone. Her baby is missing, and she was in charge of him. Jake cannot hide his anger at her, she had one job and so begins the urgent search for baby Max. 

Meanwhile, on a travellers site in the countryside. The Star family are welcoming baby Max. Mother Jenna, her partner Gary and children Willow, Moon and Tiger live off grid. No phones, no books, no television. Teenage Willow has always taken responsibility for her younger siblings. Whilst Jenna is, without doubt, the head of the family, she is far better at giving orders and sitting back and letting the others do the work. She's self centred, often violent, reckless and knows just how to wrap people around her little finger. 

This is novel that covers many emotional themes. From Sarah's obvious post-natal depression, to the toxicity of the Press and Social Media, to the absolute and unbreakable bond between three children who despite their upbringing have such a strong moral codes.  

Sarah and Jenna couldn't be more different and the authors cleverly weave their back stories into the plot. The relationship between the couples are exact opposites too. With Jake blaming Sarah for everything and going to pieces, and Gary's downtrodden role in Jenna's life which is finally overcome by his inner strength and beliefs. 

For me, Willow was the star of the story. A young girl, approaching womanhood who wants to be loved. Who wants nothing more than to protect her siblings, but also to have a more normal life. Her bravery and strength carries the plot so much. 

It's a complex plot that covers many issues, with characters that the reader can cheer on, and some that they will wish the worst for. There are some incredibly sad moments, some parts that will make you hold your breath and others where you will cheer out loud. 

Well written and finely plotted, albeit with a slow start. Recommended 

M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specialising in high-end
drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. 

In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. 
His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK's bestselling crime debut of 2014 and has been followed by ten more DI Helen Grace thrillers - all Sunday Times bestsellers.

Julia Crouch is the author of ten internationally published Domestic Noir novels: Cuckoo, Every Vow You Break, Tarnished, The Long Fall, Her Husband’s Lover, The New Mother, The Daughters, The Perfect Date, The Surprise Party and The Wrong Child. 

She has also written eleven plays and is developing a screenplay. She teaches for UEA, Faber Academy and the National Centre for Writing, and mentors writers trying to start, finish or polish a novel. 
Once a committed pantser, she is now an avid plotter.

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