Then the boy, still alive, is discovered in the boot of a car at a petrol station. Traumatised by his experiences he becomes an elective mute.
The book follows his journey, struggling with his memories on a Yorkshire farm with his grandparents (one of whom has serious cancer), and at the same time follows the police investigation, made more urgent when another boy is taken.
It is a brilliant concept and a real page-turned; I raced through it in an evening and a morning session. I was a little sceptical about the use of elective mutism: it seemed a little like a plot device so that Evan's evidence, which helps to solve the case, can't be realised until the book is nearing its climax. The police procedural aspect is also slowed down by resource constraints so that some leads that at the end seem obvious are not followed up. But the account of Evan's rehabilitation and his life with his grandparents, both of whom are undergoing the mundane tragedies associated with old age, is realistic and humane and, near the end, brought a tear to my eye.
Plot turning points: spoiler alert
- Almost exactly half way through the book is a big turning point when Evan's mother who, since his abduction and even after his recovery has been going downhill, decides to stop drinking, clean the house and sort herself out.
- Evan's recovery is at 19%. This is perhaps a little early. He is articulate when he tells the police his name and asks for his mother to come and get him. It is afterwards that he turns mute (and this is later explained by telling us that he can't talk about the paedophile abuse he suffered to his parents)
- Evan's grandmother dies (which triggers the beginning of his speaking again) almost exactly at the two-thirds mark. The second kidnap happens almost immediately afterwards.
- "I'm every woman's type, I am. Loaded with charm, like a pizza with every kind of topping."
- "A picture of innocence whose innocence is lost."
December 2019; 369 pages