Thrillers or psychological suspense novels featuring missing kids aren’t a rarity. I went to a session at Bad Sydney Crime Writers Festival about ‘missing children’ in books and they touched on a something I – as a non-parent – found interesting.
Basically it was whether a parent of a missing child would prefer to never know what happened to their child (so they could have been taken by someone for non-nefarious purposes… to raise as their own, not abused horribly of course) or would they prefer to know if their child was dead.
I realise it’s a macabre subject but I pondered…. is some hope better than none? Or not-knowing worse than closure.
Anyhoo… my pondering aside, this book is about a missing child. Every parent’s worst nightmare.The Sleepover
by Samantha King
Published by Piatkus
on November 7th 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9780349414713, 9780349414706
Izzy is thrilled when her shy, 12-year-old son is invited for his first sleepover. Nick has spent years being isolated and picked on; he deserves a night of fun and friendship.
But Izzy is also nervous: it's a year to the day since bullies put Nick in hospital.
She drops him off at his new best friend's house with mixed feelings. Arriving to collect him the following morning, her worst fears come true . . .
Nick isn't there.
Who has taken her son?
And will she ever get him back?
The book opens as Izzy rescues her son from being beaten some school bullies, but then moves jumps forward a year (to) when Nick has started high school.
The events of the previous year have made Izzy even more over-protective than she already was. Interestingly her husband (and Nick’s step-father) Craig, labelled her a ‘bad parent’ after the incident and left.
I must admit I felt like Izzy was over-reacting to the earlier events but we learn later that Nick was injured quite badly (and it was the one and only time he’d walked to school alone). I assumed he might have had a learning disability or something that meant he was picked-on (explaining Izzy and Craig being overly protective ‘before’ the incident) but I think he was just socially awkward. And… (egad!) a dancer!
Izzy has very begrudgingly agreed to the sleepover and again it seems horribly unfortunate that he disappears the first time he’s out of his mother’s sight.
King introduces us to a range of characters – Nick’s friends and their parents, as well as Izzy’s former circle of friends. It’s kinda shocking and weird that her long term best friend sided with her Craig and labelled Izzy a bad mother a year earlier after the attack on Nick.
King does a good job of setting up Nick’s disappearance. There are very few clues and seemingly no logical reason. Given her over-protectiveness it seems unlikely Nick has secrets from his mother, but then she discovers he had a Facebook page and wonders how well she knew her son at all.
There were a few gaps for me. Although we eventually learn a little more, I would have liked to know more about Nick’s biological father. And I didn’t entirely understand Craig’s willingness to leave his marriage (and Nick) when his step-son’s welfare was at the crux of his decision to leave…. though of course it does mean we wonder why Nick hasn’t had any interest in seeing his stepfather.
And, as many of the marital / romantic relationships featured in this book are less than stellar, perhaps delving into that a little more, particularly the impact that has on children cos – in reverse – King does reference the impact parenting styles have on marriages.
This would be a great bookclub book cos I found Craig and Izzy to be over-the-top concerned about Nick. Once I knew he and his mother weren’t on the run from a drug cartel or similar, I didn’t quite get the paranoia. Though maybe parents nowadays aren’t able to be complacent.
The Sleepover by Samantha King was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.