THE HIDDEN CHILD
As Connie desperately searches for her, she has to put the news reports of other missing children to the back of her mind. She is determined to find her safe. She will bring her daughter home.
As local farmer Ronald listens to the news, he is shocked by what he hears. He has spent his life away from the spotlight, quietly tending to his farm. But when a young couple begin acting suspiciously on his land, he knows that trouble is about to reach his door.
And then he sees her. A girl in a bright red coat who looks completely lost. Ronald knows he needs to help keep her safe and find her family. But on the wild and desolate farmland, Ronald has buried his own dark secret. Can he risk it coming to light to save her life?
Rebecca Griffiths grew up in mid-Wales and went on to gain a first-class honours degree in English Literature.
After a successful business career in London, Dublin and Scotland she returned to rural mid-Wales where she lives with her husband, a prolific artist, their four black rescue cats, two pet sheep the size of sofas and writes full time.
HUNT FOR VICTIMS ON SADDLEWORTH MOOR
“Further murder victims are expected to be found buried on the desolate Pennine moors where the body of a young girl was discovered two days ago. Police chiefs are to re-examine their files on eight people – four of them children – who have disappeared from the Manchester area over the past three years”
Manchester Evening News, October 18, 1965
“The crimes Myra and Ian were being accused of were impossible to understand. But this was as it should be. If such atrocities could be understood, then it meant they could be explained… and if they could be explained, then they could be explained away. And that would be wrong”
“Ronald thought of how close he’d come to death, and how he’d never been so frightened. The looks on their faces, the pleasure it had given them. The glee. They were evil… real evil. It wasn’t as if Ronald was unfamiliar with violence; his father had brought him up on it, albeit a more frenzied kind. What he’d just undergone was different. It was visceral. It had been practised and administered by people who seemed comfortable with killing”
“I think we look for in others what we see in ourselves”
“Not that he believed in heaven. He knew that beyond this world, there was nothing. God was an invention created by one man to keep another at bay. He stopped going to church the year his mother died and didn’t care two figs what his neighbours thought. His neighbours, with their sprays and insecticides, doing wrong to the land. Nature was his god. Nature was the omnipotent one. The thing all mortals would have to answer to in the end”
“A child is missing. A secret is waiting to be found”
I don’t think I have ever been so undecided, or trepidatious about how to rate and review a book, which underpins my assertion that the entire process can be very subjective, as storylines often mean different things to different people and have the power to evoke many conflicting reactions and draw diverse conclusions. I knew this fictional account was based on factual events, but I had no idea of the overwhelming and consuming emotions it would evoke whilst I was reading.
For any potential overseas readers, or anyone who isn’t familiar with UK news events of the mid 1960s, google ‘Moors Murders’ and I dare you not to be repulsed by the sheer depravity of what you discover.
I was only a small child when those events took place, however the fact that death by hanging had only recently been repealed, so both Myra Hindley and Ian Brady spent the rest of their lives luxuriating in prison at the taxpayer’s expense, showed no genuine remorse and were never ‘persuaded’ to reveal the final resting place of the remains of one of their victims, even on their death-beds, still had the power to disturb and rile me more than I anticipated.
I don’t think it would have been quite so traumatic if author Rebecca Griffiths hadn’t chosen to use Hindley and Brady’s real names and make them such an integral part of the story, as IMHO neither of them deserve to be shown as anything other than the sadistic tyrants they undoubtedly were and not included in a storyline where there are potential happy endings, whereas for their victims’ families, there was no hope.
Without giving away spoilers, it is quite a challenge to encapsulate this heart-breaking storyline in a mere few words…
The story opens in 1941, at the height of WWII, on Black Fell Farm, where Ronald Cappleman lives, carrying out critical war work, whilst his brother Thomas is away fighting on the front line. Their mother is in the final throes of cancer, their father is a drunken bully and Ronald is cheating on his brother, with his sweetheart, Pamela. When his mother passes away, Ronald can take no more from his abusive father, although his act of retribution is brutally final and has the potential for disastrous consequences. On hearing that a badly damaged Thomas has been discharged from active duty and is on his way home, Pamela leaves both men for another, although neither of them realise just how close by she stays, or what secret she has taken with her.
Fast forward to 1965 and Ronnie has no idea that a much changed, yet very astute Tommy, realises exactly what happened during his absence and has long ago forgiven his brother for all his sins. However, as the two of them seldom embark on deep and meaningful conversations, Tommy has no notion of the guilt which weighs Ronnie down and scares him, daily.
When a very young girl arrives at the farm, sick and dishevelled, much against Ronnie’s better judgement, he allows Tommy’s parenting instincts to take over and she is welcomed into their home. Ronnie knows that every attempt must be made to return her to her family, but Thomas’s obvious happiness colours his judgement.
Ronnie also has more pressing issues with a young, obviously ‘townie’ couple who keep coming to the moors and onto his land, where they have been acting suspiciously, have terrorised then shot two of his ewes and when he challenged them, then turned the gun on him, threatening to kill him if he didn’t leave them alone.
Running in parallel is the story of single mother Connie, who gave birth to her daughter when she was barely a teenager herself and has never been able to bear the constraints or responsibilities of motherhood. Living in a run-down flat, in a not so salubrious part of the City of Manchester, the child, Kathy, is neglected and often physically and verbally abused by a mother who drinks too much and can’t believe that she has found a man who is willing to love both her and Kathy for who they are and in the way they deserve.
She has shunned all help from her parents, who have moved to a nicer area, although still close by, and instead relies on the company of her best childhood friend from school, who is also not maternal, but in a much more overt way than Connie. Connie herself, is very wary of her friend’s boyfriend, a Scotsman who has a decidedly violent streak and a foul mouth to go with it. The couple are both devoid of any emotion or compassion, making them perfect for each other, although just how much in lockstep they are will only be revealed as time passes.
When Kathy goes missing, Connie can’t understand the maternal emotions which come flooding in and the sense of loss she feels, only hoping that it is not too late to make amends for her poor treatment of her daughter, should she be found alive. Connie’s father dies after losing his battle against cancer and surprisingly her mother immediately takes on a new lease of life and alongside traipsing the streets night and day in the vain hope of finding her granddaughter, she has every intention of rekindling an old flame, in the hope that she might have a second chance at the happiness she had walked away from.
Will there be at least one happy ending from this chilling storyline, the stuff of which nightmares are made?
I always enjoy brave, bold, multi-faceted, many layered storylines and I could only admire the blending of fact with fiction into a gripping story which was tense, dark, totally immersive, highly textured and nuanced.
With total authority and confidence author Rebecca Griffiths constructed an infinitely tangled web of lies, deceit, manipulation and coercive control, which made this desperately lugubrious, intense and relentless journey, like wading across a river of treacle and never quite making it to the other side.
With events spiralling further and further out of control, I became invested in the way in which the two complex parallel storylines each ran their independent courses, converging slowly towards the end, when all those long-held secrets were forced out into the open, to be confronted and dealt with, once and for all – That’s when I found myself turning the pages ever faster, as the danger was ratcheted up again and again and the twists kept on coming.
Set in the Yorkshire Moors, a part of the country I am largely unfamiliar with, the attention to detail and descriptive qualities with which Rebecca painted the physical location of the storyline, also meant that my appetite as an ‘armchair traveller’ was more than satisfied. I could picture the remote isolation of Ronald and Thomas’s farm and the high-rise tenement blocks and estate lifestyle of Connie and Fred, Myra and Ian, and Myra’s sister Maureen and Dave.
Rebecca has drawn and gathered a complex core set of characters, who whilst all were given a strong voice to direct and guide the storyline and were well cast into their individual roles, were nonetheless totally uninvestable and with whom I was completely unable to connect or show any sympathy, which I am certain is as she intended.
I might indeed have felt a smidgeon of sympathy for Connie, who when she thinks she might have lost her daughter for good, finally realised just how much she loved Kathy and how cruelly she had treated her for so much of her short life. But even that small touch of remorse couldn’t negate the overwhelming disgust I felt for her, both in her continued association with Myra and the help she shuns from her parents, who might have made her journey with Kathy a more fulfilling and enjoyable experience for them both.
Rebecca’s writing, if looked on dispassionately as a fictional story, is a study rich in human behaviour, with many social and moral issues touched upon to varying degrees and displayed so candidly in the emotional psyche and mental well-being of the characters; from the darker side of love, coercion and obsession emanating from minds bent and twisted beyond recognition; to the emotional angst and devastating desolation of families whose loved ones are missing and for whom there can be no closure until they know the truth, no matter how bad; and the naïve acceptance of the young, who only long to be unconditionally loved and nurtured.
Totally deserving of the full 5* I finally decided upon, which is an honest reflection of the quality and thrill ride of my edge-of-the-seat reading experience. I shall, without doubt, also be adding more of Rebecca’s books to my ‘wish list’.
Thank you for such a roller coaster journey of emotions, Rebecca!
A complimentary kindle download of this book for review, was made available by publisher Bookouture and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion, and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However, some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I appreciate your support.