The Suspect. Fiona Barton. Penguin Publishing Group.. January 2019. $26.00; hb, 416 pp.; ISBN: 9781101990513.
One of the worst nightmares for parents would be the disappearance or death of a child. One probably can’t imagine such a scene. In many ways, parents are slightly out of touch once teens become older and exert some independence. So when Alex and a new friend Rosie go to Bangkok, Thailand, their parents are happy that they are supposedly having a great time. The few texts they send to their parents and other friends seem to send the same message, the trip of a lifetime, which is exactly what it’s not!
At the same time, Kate Waters and her husband have fallen out of touch with their son, Jake. He is also in Bangkok but no one knows what he’s doing there. He was supposed to be continuing his education but that’s far from reality. The story also concerns a young man named Jamie, a kind of obsessive guy who is mildly irritating to his crowd of friends and a Thai landlady called Mamma.
When Alex and Rosie stop sending messages and haven’t been heard from in a little over week, the parents and friends become very concerned. Days later, the nightmare scenario rears its head; the girls are dead. Weeks later, news hits that they didn’t die in a fire but had actually died before they were found in the remains of a fire. This then is the mystery that fills these page-turning scenes of the investigation that follows. It also turns out that Jake Waters was a friend of the two girls and might have started the fired hostel where the girls were found. Drugs, sex, and a fairly wild life seem to consume most of the tourists in Bangkok and police are quick to close cases rather than investigate further. Alex fails to follow her better instincts before it is too late.
Now the parents are involved and that is tragic, high drama. Kate Water cannot stop being a journalist and begins her own search regarding her own son. While some of the parts are repetitive and a bit lengthy, the mystery’s solution is both unpredictable and wild beyond anyone’s imagination. It’s a story of innocence gone awry, parents who are quite disconnected from reality, dysfunctional families and individuals who seem beyond redemption, and a question of who is innocent or guilty. It’s an exciting, sad and thrilling roller-coaster read! Nice job, Fiona Barton – good read!