‘The Child Finder’ by Rene Denfeld

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

A little girl disappears in the snowy woods on an expedition to cut a Christmas tree with her parents. One moment Madison is running ahead and playing in the snow, and the next she is gone. Three years later, a woman is determined to find her, convinced that she is alive. Naomi is a private investigator specializing in missing children…because she was once one herself. Despite the dark and disturbing subject matter of kidnapping and child abuse, there is a wave of hope and healing rippling through this book, although it may still be too sensitive a topic for those who have first hand experience with this unfortunate reality.

Alternating narratives between the child and the finder are beautifully and skillfully written–the lyrical prose not in any way bogging down the thriller quality, keeping the pace unstoppable. The author also deals very carefully with the difficult bits, not dwelling unnecessarily, but telling the story all the same. I think this is what helps her achieve the hopeful tone despite the subject matter. Yes, it is a thriller about child abuse, but it is also about love, compassion, survival, strength, rehabilitation, and healing. It is clearly a cut above the psychological thrillers so prevalent today because it has suspense and substance in equal measure–it illuminates in the darkness, and that is a significantly valuable role that literature can play in our lives.

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