When we meet Joanna Lindsay, Alistair Robertson and their 9 week old son Noah they are experiencing a long, uncomfortable flight from Scotland, where they live, to Australia, where Alistair was born. Baby Noah cannot be settled and by flight’s end Joanna and her fellow passengers are frazzled, though Alistair has managed to get some sleep. During the couple’s drive from Melbourne airport to Alistair’s home town Noah goes missing which sparks a police investigation, a social media backlash against Joanna and trauma for Alistair’s ex-wife and teenage daughter.
After reading three of her books I’ve learned that Helen Fitzgerald can be extraordinarily cruel to the people she creates. Not ‘sadistic serial killer makes suits of human skin after lengthy torture sessions’ kind of cruel; rather she puts them through scenarios that are entirely believable in their ordinariness and totally horrific in their psychological impact. Here it is Joanna who is put through the wringer quite literally from the book’s very beginning to its bitter end and it is done with such skill and credibility that the reader cannot help but feel as if they too have lived through the woman’s harrowing experiences. For me this kind of tale – one where I can identify with the everyday situations in which the characters find themselves and can imagine the awfulness of the consequences when things go horribly wrong after a split second’s inattention or distraction – makes for a far more satisfying reading experience than the endless stream of serial killer tomes could ever do.
The structure of this novel works well too, offering several points of view though mainly that of Joanna and Alexandra (Alistair’s ex-wife). We get parts of the story from only one perspective and others are seen from both women’s viewpoint. Then there are the segments that show us what “the public” are thinking and saying through their tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates. As well as allowing an aspect of the story to be told inventively these snippets also offer some insight into the downside of this thoroughly modern phenomenon. The ease with which public opinions are made and changed based on rumour and ill-informed supposition is depicted very cleverly here.
THE CRY is an intelligent, surprising and totally compelling novel which I read in a single sitting (I’m not counting the several periods during which I put it down to make a nice, calming cup of tea as I soon hurried back on each such occasion). I won’t pretend it’s an easy read – especially for any new mums – but if you fancy an above average tale of psychological suspense during which you will often ponder how you would react (or have done) in the same circumstances then I highly recommend THE CRY.
THE CRY is the 17th book I’ve read that counts towards this year’s Australian Women Writers challenge.
I’ve reviewed one other Helen Fitzgerald novel here at Fair Dinkum Crime: 2011’s THE DONOR
Publisher: Faber and Faber 
Length: 320 pages
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.