Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Faber RRP $19.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
A taut psychological thriller, The Cry kept me up late because I just had to finish it. Luckily, it’s only a short book! I haven’t read any of Fitzgerald’s previous books, but after reading this, I’ll be keeping a look out from now on – I’ve got a new “must-read” author.
Joanna Lindsay and her partner Alastair Robertson are on a horror long-haul flight from Glasgow to Melbourne with their nine-week-old son; Noah won’t stop crying and Joanna is beside herself trying to settle him, knowing that to others, they are the passengers from hell. As Joanna gets more and more stressed, Alastair sleeps on, oblivious to his son and partner’s distress. Hours later, Noah finally settles and Joanna snatches a few moments of peace, unaware that her nightmare is only just beginning.
A few days later, the media is all over a breaking story – a nine-week-old baby has been taken from his parents’ car. Before long, though, social media is buzzing with rumours, hearsay and accusations about the real story; Joanna is the biggest target, with one blogger apparently determined to unmask the evil behind the façade. While Joanna is falling apart, Alastair is treating the incident as a personal PR exercise, teeing up 60 Minute interviews and a book deal, as well as seeking custody of his estranged 14-year-old daughter. What really happened to Noah? Whose truth should be believed?
The Cry is tightly constructed and well-paced, with plenty of tension, red herrings and “keep you guessing” moments. The truth is veiled behind so many “what ifs”, and at the end, there still seem to be a few unanswered questions. It left me feeling disturbed and unsettled – always the mark of a good psychological thriller.
As characters’ suspicions are roused, so too are the readers’, and allegiances change almost as fast as the page turns. The novel is character-driven, focussing on each one’s reaction to the situation, causing accusations and recriminations to flow hard and fast; it’s an emotive read and hard not to feel for the characters at times, despite their mistakes and faults. I particularly felt sympathy for Joanna, feeling out-of-sorts with an infection and on a plane with a screaming baby, but at times I was frustrated by her weakness; I felt angered by Alastair’s increasingly manipulative and abusive behaviour and found my sympathy for him decreasing over time. And I felt for Chloe, the teen girl caught between two parents. She, and her mother, Alexandra were the ones I liked the most.
Crisp writing style, well-drawn characters and plenty of food for thought makes The Cry one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read lately. Even though I’ve moved on to other books, I’m still thinking about aspects of it.
Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. This copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
Bookish treat: I ate all my sour Skittles reading this.