The Wrong Child – M J Arlidge and Julia Crouch | Book Review | #TheWrongChild #Thriller @mjarlidge @thatjuliacrouch @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n  

When 3-month-old Max is abducted, his parents are plunged into their worst nightmare. Devastated mum Sarah only took her eyes off him for a second, but that doesn’t stop her guilt. Even husband Jake can’t hide his anger that their little boy went missing on her watch.

By contrast there are smiles and celebration at a caravan park in Lincolnshire, as baby Blaze is introduced to the Star family. Jenna and Gary are delighted with the new addition to their family. He is their fourth child and a real object of delight to their eldest – fifteen-year-old Willow – who once again will raise the child.

But trouble is brewing for the Star family. Willow is concerned by the desperate online appeals from Sarah and Jake, baby Max has neonatal diabetes and without regular treatment will die. As baby “Blaze” becomes seriously ill, Willow makes a shocking discovery. What is the truth about her family? And how far will they go to hide their deadly secret?


My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invite to the tour and to the publisher for the ecopy to review via Netgalley. The Wrong Child is published by Orion in ebook, audio and paperback formats (30 May 2024).

Having read and enjoyed previous books by each author, this collaboration was one that I couldn’t say no to and I wasn’t disappointed. However their joint writing process works, it seems very successful and I forgot that I was reading two authors so seamless was the flow. With characters that I felt sympathy for but also despised, this was a story of drama and emotion.

When Sarah took her eyes off her three month baby Max, every parent’s worst nightmare happened. Someone was watching and they didn’t hesitate to take their chance. I’m not a parent but it should have been clear to Sarah’s family how much she was struggling with a new baby and two other young children. Her husband Jake was as much use as a chocolate teapot, his own interests taking priority.

The vilification of Sarah in the media made for uncomfortable reading because we see this toxicity all the time. There are few boundaries the press will not cross to get their story and clicks. Add in the investigating detectives who decided that their only suspect was Sarah and she was on her own whilst dealing with her own feelings of heartbreak and guilt. Even her own husband offered no support.

The Star family dynamics would become clear but the head of the family Jenna, seemed a disturbed individual and the one person that I really rooted for here was Willow. As the eldest child, she was left to look after everyone, including a new baby, whilst Jenna and her latest boyfriend went off to do their ‘job’ – their income stream seemed decidedly dodgy. Although she came from a normal suburban background Jenna was very much anti-establishment. She made sure the family was constantly moving around, living off grid in their caravan Nomad and not allowing phones or any form of media that might influence. Despite her assertions that she wanted her children to have freedom, she was able to exercise complete control and manipulation of her family.

Whilst the book initially had a slower pace as it introduced the characters and the build up, the pace and tension increased as lives began to unravel and behaviours became more erratic. With baby Blaze needing regular medication to keep him alive there was a race to find him in time.

I enjoyed this thrilling story with its powerful emotive plot and diverse characters. There were well drawn main and supporting players and Willow was one that stood out for me. In spite of Jenna’s parenting – or rather the lack of it, she was an intelligent, caring and brave young girl who just wanted love and a normal life.

At the time of this post, The Wrong Child is available for download from Amazon UK for 99p

M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specialising in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014 and has been followed by ten more DI Helen Grace thrillers – all Sunday Times bestsellers.

Follow the author: X/Twitter | Insta | Goodreads | Amazon UK

Julia Crouch is the author of ten internationally published Domestic Noir novels: Cuckoo, Every Vow You Break, Tarnished, The Long Fall, Her Husband’s Lover, The New Mother, The Daughters, The Perfect Date, The Surprise Party and The Wrong Child. She has also written eleven plays and is developing a screenplay. She teaches for UEA, Faber Academy and the National Centre for Writing, and mentors writers trying to start, finish or polish a novel. Once a committed pantser, she is now an avid plotter.

Follow the author: X/Twitter | Insta | Goodreads | Amazon UK


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