Today I am sharing my thoughts on the latest Matilda Darke novel from Michael Wood, Stolen Children. I seem to be on a bit of a roll this week with missing children books but that’s okay. They’ve all been brilliant. I was a late comer to the Matilda Darke series but I’ve enjoyed playing catch up and getting to know Matilda and the team. Before I tell you what I thought of this latest offering, here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Some cases won’t die.
A young boy walks into a police station in France. He claims to be Carl Meagan – a missing child from Sheffield whose name is still whispered as a warning to kids who stay out after dark.
Some children won’t be found.
On her way home from the supermarket, nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanishes without trace. Her family is overcome with shock and DCI Matilda Darke can’t help but focus on memories of the Carl Meagan case that almost ruined her career.
Some killers won’t be stopped.
As Matilda investigates, she peels back the layers of grief and sadness that surround Keeley’s family. Until she is left with an unimaginable choice: betray those closest to her or let a violent killer walk free…
This is a book that will really resonate with fans of the Matilda Darke series by Michael Wood. One of the key cases that has haunted Matilda throughout the course of the series is the ‘one that got away’, or more accurately, the one she never got back – Carl Meagan. At the start of this book we are faced with the very real prospect that Carl may have been found, something which backs up the strange calls that his mother was receiving in the previous book. But is it him, and will waiting to hear the truth distract Matilda from her very latest case, one that has eerily similar overtones to the Carl Meagan case? A young girl has gone missing, a call made to her distraught parents demanding money if they ever wish to see her again. Is history repeating itself and, if so, why choose a family who so clearly cannot afford to pay such a crippling ransom?
This book will play with your emotions. Not only because of the Carl Meagan angle, or the disappearance of the young girl, but because of all the emotional baggage that surrounds the family. With a disabled son, the parents are already stretched to the limit to ensure that he has a great life, almost to the detriment of his two sisters. Michael Wood plays this to perfection, the toll that her daughter’s disappearance takes on the mother almost painful to read at times. But there is always the sense of something not being quite right in the household, a kind of edginess and undercurrent of unease that goes beyond the current circumstances. There is always a sense of mistrust between the reader and the family at the heart of the story and as much sympathy as I found being drawn out, I was wary too as were the police. In truth, this is a very dark subject matter, but expertly handled. The final reveal is gradual, the tension building all the time, and the realisation, when it comes, it is both shocking and yet also not really a surprise. I had my suspicions from the start but Michael Wood throws in a raft is suspects and possible scenarios throughout so you will probably find yourself second guessing what is really going on.
As always the character portrayal in the book was brilliant, many of them wrestling with personal circumstances and situations that take their eye off the ball a little. Matilda is especially distracted, a blossoming romance put on hold as she tries to come to terms with her emotions over the Carl Meagan case and the similarities to her new missing child case. In fact it seems like most of the team are preoccupied with affairs of the heart and that distraction puts them kind of off their game in a way that could prove deadly for more than one of them. But it is the sense of family in the books which makes them every bit as enjoyable to read as the police investigations, and at least it adds a really positive lift to a dark and fraught case. The story is packed full of emotion, both of the smiling and tear filled kind, as well as a the usual tension and action that you come to expect from the series. Although Matilda is suffering from a lot of guilt, as always, it was nice to see her finally have a few moments of happiness, even if they were only brief.
Another great case with an ending full of promise that has left me hungry for more. When’s the next book due?
About the Author
Michael Wood is the pen name (he can’t spell soo-da-nim) for Sheffield based crime writer, Michael Wood. As of 2019 he has written four novels and one prequel novella in the DCI Matilda Darke thriller series which is set in his home city of Sheffield. He is currently writing the fifth and also has other projects up the sleeves of his duffel coat. When he’s not writing, he’s usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation. For more information you can find him on the book of faces and the one with the blue bird.