Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).
Every parents’ nightmare comes to life in this fast-paced thriller. I’d have read this in two sittings (one if my body had let me) if I had’t left it at work overnight! Here’s the blurb:
On the day that Rachel Jenner’s eight-year-old son Ben goes missing, the bottom falls out of her world. Desperate to find her boy, she’s completely unprepared for how quickly her personal hell is thrust into the media spotlight. She let Ben out of her sight, and now he’s gone – so of course the nation thinks she is to blame.
But what really happened that afternoon? Caught between the tragedy of losing her son, a frenetic police investigation and a public who have turned against her, Rachel must now face the awful truth – that everything she knew about herself and the people around her is a lie. And there is nobody left, not even her family, who she can trust. In this emotional and wholeheartedly captivating psychological thriller, we see how a mother’s single mistake can cause nationwide fury. The clock is ticking to find Ben alive. But this is a trial by public opinion. Whose side are you on?
Burnt Paper Sky held me in its thrall from start to finish. The story is told from the viewpoints of Rachel, the mother, and Jim, a police officer in counselling some time after the event. Interspersed with this are a number of online articles and blog posts, complete with comments both supportive and accusatory, which give a voice to the strength of public opinion against Rachel. As police investigate and Rachel waits, the journalists camp out the front like predators calmly stalking their prey.
Readers will wonder how reliable a narrator Rachel is, and be kept on tenterhooks about the outcome, as Jim is clearly a man traumatised by what happened. Attention is skilfully deflected away from Rachel at times, so you’ll suspect this person, then that person, based on suggestion. This person writes a blog … that person is a journalist – are they the ones stirring up public opinion, betraying Rachel? Or worse, are they behind Ben’s disappearance? In the end, I didn’t pick it. And in the end, one sentence left me wondering.
A tense, well-written and convincing story that plays to parents’ fears, expectations and guilt, Burnt Paper Sky is a terrific read.
Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.