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Nappy Noir: Jennifer Platt talks to Fiona Barton about her latest novel The Child

Published in the Sunday Times

The Child
Fiona Barton (Bantam Press)
****

The label “thriller” doesn’t do justice to the dark psycho-suspense that female crime novelists are becoming known for.

Popularised by books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, the sub-genre is called griplit by some, because that’s what it is – gripping. A cliché, but it’s stuck.

There are, however, a few novelists who prefer to call what they are writing “domestic noir”, and bestselling UK author Fiona Barton is one of them. She tells me in a phone interview: “I prefer the term domestic noir to griplit. I write about what happens to ordinary women when secrets are revealed. What happens to relationships. What happens when we have something that we don’t want people to know, when we bury them deep.”

The Child is exactly that. It has a few core questions that drove Barton to write her second book. “Why would someone bury a child? Why would they be so afraid? Why would they be so ashamed?”

Like her bestselling debut The Widow, in which she wrote about whether the wife of an accused knew that her husband was a child molester and killer, Barton also bases this on a true story that grabbed her attention during her career as a journalist – she wrote for the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

“I still remember the case. It was a mummified body of a baby found in a garden shed. I kept thinking about it. I never got to write the story. It was solved by the police immediately. I can’t remember the details but the mother was arrested.”

The case haunted Barton and she wanted to write a book that focused on the dead baby and the relationship between mothers and daughters.

She brought back her intrepid journalist Kate Waters from The Widow. Waters, like Barton, is captured by the news headline “Baby Body Found”, about the body found at a construction site in London.

Barton introduces three other women who are affected by the news, using them as narrators to tell the story in bits, each short chapter dedicated to each woman. There’s Angela, whose baby was stolen years ago from the hospital and never found, who thinks the corpse would be her baby. There’s Emma, an unreliable narrator who has an unknown link to the news story. The third woman is Jude, Emma’s rather unlikable mother.

The case unravels, the women’s lives unravel and the reader can’t wait for Barton’s next book – which will, thank goodness, feature Kate Waters again. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The Child

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