In a single day, a simple mistake will have life-altering consequences for everyone involved.
A moment of distraction, an unlocked car and a missing baby. How on earth could this happen?
All Malia needed was a single litre of milk and now she’s surrounded by police and Zach has disappeared.
Detective Ali Greenberg knows that this is not the best case for her, not with her history – but she of all people knows what Malia is going through and what is at stake.
Edna is worried about the new residents at the boarding house. She knows Mary would turn in her grave if she knew the kinds of people her son was letting in.
And then there is someone else. Someone whose heart is broken. Someone who feels she has been unfairly punished for her mistakes. Someone who wants what she can’t have.
What follows is a heart-stopping game of cat-and-mouse and a race against the clock. As the hours pass and the day heats up, all hope begins to fade.
A gripping, haunting family drama shot through with emotion and suspense.
This was an excellent novel, a real “heart in your mouth” suspense, and I found myself reading it non stop, picking it up whenever I could and carting it around the house with me. This is the first novel by Nicole Trope that I have read and I have to say, she has a fan in me now.
Forgotten was structured in a manner that kept the tension ramped all the way through, and as the story progressed, so did the mounting dread and suspense. There was no saggy middle, no longwinded beginning, and no racing end. It just all flowed so well, fast paced, but not so much so that you felt you were missing anything. Structurally, this was an outstanding novel. The story was told from four perspectives and alternated between these evenly with new chapters, so you were always clear on who you with and this technique enhanced the pacing of the novel greatly. Given that this novel spanned only one day, Nicole did a fantastic job of weaving in back story for each character, and she did so in a way that complimented the story as it was unfolding in the moment. She told us what we needed to know, when we needed to know it, and this persisted throughout the entire novel, and as the tension ramped up, so did the background information we were privy to. This technique of dribbling it out within the context of each scene is a tricky sort of thing to get right and it’s no small demonstration of Nicole Trope’s skill as a writer that she pulled this off to perfection. We got to know a lot about each character in a short amount of time, but we also got to know what we really needed to know, which is an important distinction. I was very glad for the wrap up section on each character at the end, it would have been a disappointment to not know how everyone fared after the conclusion of that terrible day.
Onto the characters, which is my favourite part of any review, and Forgotten certainly has plenty of fodder for me to work with. Beginning with Malia, the first character that we encounter, the mother of the missing baby. I found her to be a highly relatable character right from the get go. As a mother of three children myself, all close in age, her daily grind brought back so many memories from when mine were little.
“Malia sees her own hand grab Ian’s cup and upend it on his head.”
I loved this. It was so true and so perfectly accurate, because all it takes is just one thing to come loose from a routine when you have little kids and your whole day can just begin to spiral out of control. A forgotten bottle of milk had no impact whatsoever on Malia’s husband, but for her, it was catastrophic. So yes, Malia daydreaming about her husband wearing his coffee at work while she navigated a domestic storm was highly relatable indeed and it made me love her from the start. My fondness for Malia continued to increase throughout the novel because in terms of character growth, Malia demonstrated this in spades. In the midst of a truly horrifying scenario, the domestic universe she had been working so hard to keep to together just unravels rapidly. Her husband is the very definition of selfish jerk, and as the day wears on, this fact becomes more and more apparent to Malia as his despicable actions and weak character are revealed. Malia becomes stronger, taking charge of her life, seeing with more clarity, and generally learning from this terrible incident and taking action to minimise anything else even remotely similar from happening again. Ian got what he deserved and I was very glad for it!
Detective Ali Greenberg was a character I really liked, for both her inner strength and her dedication to seeing the job through, despite the personal emotional rollercoaster she was on. I enjoyed the partnership between her and Mike, there was great professional chemistry and their team approach to working on witnesses and hashing out the case made for some good scenes. On a police note, there is a scene within this about three quarters through that sees a major, for want of a better expression, ‘stuff up’. While I found this appalling and sincerely hoped that the author was using her imagination rather than any factual info she may have encountered through research, I liked the way Ali and Mike handled the fall out from this. They were the type of police partnership that would make for a good police series.
Edna was an interesting choice to have as a perspective, and I will admit that there were times when I was questioning her usefulness. I should have simply trusted Nicole though, because once it became apparent to me what Edna’s purpose was, I appreciated the inventiveness of having even thought her up in the first place. Edna’s viewpoint really highlighted the way the elderly can be dismissed, yet they are in just as much of a position to observe what’s going on and to also react to their own instincts. I loved how Edna had to really question herself and her upbringing, deciding, even at her grand old age, that sometimes you just needed to go against the grain and follow your instincts. Her ending, without giving anything away, was extremely satisfying for me.
And now we get to Jackie. Oh my goodness. What a character. There are many ways to describe Jackie, but I’m going to just stick with seriously delusional, emphasis on the seriously, because this woman had no grip on reality whatsoever. But again, Nicole did a marvellous job at unveiling Jackie. Right from when we first encounter her, it’s apparent there is something not quite right about her, yet we don’t fully appreciate just how unbalanced she is at this stage. As the novel progresses, we become privy to more of Jackie, and bit by bit, we are exposed to more pieces of her inner self, until we are able to fully grasp the fact that this woman is completely out of touch with reality. She was quite a frightening character, her delusions were so entrenched. Here she was, out of jail only a week, and she undertakes an act setting herself onto a path to commit the same crime again, yet seems to have no idea that she is even committing a crime at all. I just found this entirely concerning, from a real life perspective, and given the mental health crisis within this country in terms of providing wide scale treatment, my mind had a lot of trouble getting past the fact that there could be people like Jackie walking around anywhere with no clear grasp on reality, just looking out for an opportunity to right whatever wrong they perceive themselves to have suffered. The character of Jackie brings forward that whole notion of nature versus nurture, as well, and while it’s hard to believe anything at all from the pages of Jackie’s perspective, her actions placed within the context of her upbringing make the entire idea of her being abused quite plausible. Even so, I still think nature had a hand as well, because even though she was treated terribly for a period of time by her mother, there was much to indicate a long term of being entirely unbalanced. Nicole did an excellent job of communicating who Jackie really was, and I want to make a particular mention of this because no one else in the story knew Jackie and no one else could communicate who she was and what she was like. It was left to Jackie herself, to completely unravel and act accordingly.
Once again, I don’t want to spoil any part of this story for anyone, but I want to make mention of the way Nicole discretely paralleled what Jackie did with the actions of a mother under a lot of stress. In the first chapter, when Malia is leaving the house and backing out of the drive to get the milk, she doesn’t immediately realise that she has left Zach in the house. This happens more than once, and we as readers can completely see how this happens within the context of all that is going on at the time. It’s no accident that Nicole Trope has added these scenes in, but it wasn’t until after I had finished reading that I appreciated their purpose. It contrasted well against Jackie’s situation, and it gives the reader much food for thought in terms of the legitimacy of what is brought up towards the end of the novel. If you haven’t read Forgotten, you may be confused by this entire paragraph, but I just really felt the need to point this out, to tell Nicole Trope, ‘I see what you did there, very clever!’ Because it was. It was extremely clever. Well done!
So overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely. It made for a great Saturday’s reading and I can highly recommend it to all of you who enjoy a good crime/suspense/domestic drama. I will definitely be looking out for more from Nicole Trope and have added her to my list of favourite Australian women writers.
Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with an advance copy of Forgotten for review.
Forgotten is book 34 of my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.