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The Trophy Child


The Trophy Child

Domestic mysteries and thrillers are becoming more and more prevalent lately, and the newly published THE TROPHY CHILD is a standout among these. The story, set in author Paula Daly’s native Cumbria, England, is a bit of a genre bender, combining elements of suspense, romance and police procedure with family drama to create a page-turner of superior order.

A good deal of the book’s focus is on Karen Bloom, the mother of the trophy child of the piece. Bronte --- yes! --- is the unfortunate 10-year-old offspring of Karen and her physician husband, Noel. Both husband and wife have brought some baggage into their marriage, part of which consists of children from prior relationships. Noel’s daughter, Verity, is a teenager with issues. She is in therapy, and we are not entirely surprised when we find out why. Karen has a son, a twenty-something underachiever who is a pleasant-enough sort but is lacking in ambition. Bronte, as far as Karen is concerned, is the Last Great Hope. The child’s life is a whirlwind of academics, work, music lessons and sports, all of which are scheduled, managed and pushed by Karen.

"...a bit of a genre bender, combining elements of suspense, romance and police procedure with family drama to create a page-turner of superior order."

However, everything collapses when Bronte suddenly goes missing. Detective Sergeant Joanne Aspinall is assigned to the case, which becomes interesting almost immediately due to a somewhat tangential relationship she has with a member of the family. The only possible witness to her disappearance is a woman with dementia who provides a clue that, for all intents and purposes, is useless. Things ratchet up when Bronte reappears as suddenly as she went missing while steadfastly refusing to disclose what happened or where she has been.

In the meantime, the highly publicized case has drawn attention to Karen’s overbearing style of parenting, resulting in everything from insults to direct threats being leveled against her. Then Karen suddenly goes missing, and everything changes. It appears that she has met with a bad end, but her family, though upset, also seems to be relieved --- and, in at least one case, possibly responsible. Sgt. Aspinall, for reasons of her own, isn’t quite sure she wants to know what has happened, but continues to pursue the matter, even as it ultimately leads her away from the real answers. By the end of the book, you will have encountered a few twists and turns that you will not soon forget.

THE TROPHY CHILD is a dark tale with a touch of unexpected comeuppance and perhaps just a bit of indirect justice thrown in from an unlikely source. There are places where one can almost detect grim humor of the English sort sewn in between the lines with great subtlety. Word of mouth among readers, as well as the critical acclaim that Daly is sure to receive, will no doubt increase her readership here in the United States, which she has earned and deserves.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 10, 2017

The Trophy Child
by Paula Daly