I’ve enjoyed and poked fun at the Kate Water series by Fiona Barton for the last few years. When I heard that there was a new title in the series creatively called The Suspect, I knew I had to read it in order to continue the story. So, how does it hold up against the other titles? Well, I liked it, but it’s not my favorite in the series.
The Suspect is the third installment of the Kate Waters series. After two teenagers disappear during their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrown into the international spotlight. As a reporter, Kate Waters tries to get to the story first. As she digs into it more, she thinks of her son who’s been traveling for the last two years. All will soon discover that no matter how far away they are, danger can lie closer to home than one might think.
Those who’ve followed this website long enough will be familiar with the running gag of me making fun of Fiona Barton’s titles to her novel. This is no exception as this one is the most basic. However, the more I read it, the clearer it is of who the suspect is, so I’ll give credit to her for making the title personal as well as more specific than I initially thought.
Like the previous novel, Kate is front and center of this plot and reports the case with gusto, but there’s something extra. She’s now entangled in that story as her son Jake is considered a suspect in the case. Having this development makes her more flawed as a character. For example, when one of the other reporters tells her of Jake’s school records and how he dropped out of the university, Kate is livid and is in full denial because she never would think that he would do something like that. But once that reporter provides full evidence, that’s when she realizes that maybe she doesn’t know her son as well as she thinks she does. In addition, even though it makes sense from a maternal standpoint, Kate does something very drastic at the end that makes me question her ethics and doubt if I can ever look at her the same way ever again.
Additionally, there’s a mix of old and new characters. For the former, Detective Bob Sparkes is back. He hasn’t really been present since The Widow. Sadly, he’s not been given a whole lot to do besides assist in the investigation and worry over his wife who’s going through chemotherapy. I’m not sure if the subplot with his wife was all that necessary since it doesn’t really tie into overall themes of the story. As for the new characters, we have Alex – one of the missing teenagers – and her mom Lesley. I really like Alex. She wants almost everything to go according to plan and be safe in the best way possible while vacationing. However, her travel partner Rosie flushes that down the toilet. She spends a good chunk of her time partying, drinking, and sleeping with any guy that lays eyes on her. This reasonably bothers Alex as she wants to spend time going to various places and not staying at the hostel they’re at. Her segments were the most interesting because I wanted to see what led up to their deaths and how she felt about everything around her.
Lesley, on the other hand, was just another worried mom. The difference between her and Angela from The Child was that the former wants to be brave in face of what was happening and even advocates for the perpetrator to be tried in Thailand for the crimes committed. Oh and before I forget, Rosie’s parents are awful. Her dad is a philanderer, and her mom is reasonably angry at him for that, However, she also gets mad at the slightest things like not being informed of some development before her now ex-husband. That sort of got on my nerves. These characters are a bit of a let down compared to the ones in The Child.
Barton employs a similar structure to her other titles with slight changes. First, it’s not a child that’s missing, but it’s two teenagers in Thailand. It’s a great touch that readers get to see Alex’s perspective beyond the Facebook posts. Second, the novel contains a multiple-narrator structure, and it’s used in a similar way to that of The Child. It also helps to display similar emotions that Kate and Lesley feel about their children and how they didn’t really know them as well as they should have.
Third and last, I’ve also mentioned how predictable Barton’s work has been in the past in terms of endings, and this novel is no different. It gets revealed too early. However, there was one that caught me absolutely off guard. I won’t spoil it, but it made the book more enjoyable and engaging as well as slightly less predictable. I kept going back and forth between two characters of which one murdered Alex and Rosie and burned down the hostel. Maybe Barton has been reading some Lisa Gardner in her downtime.
Another thing that I was surprised that Barton didn’t do was have the perspective of the horrible male character who committed the crime. I guess that even she realized the limit of using that gimmick. Plus, eliminating that aspect actually makes the book a little more unpredictable as it made me less sure of who the culprit was.
As mentioned earlier, I listened to the audiobook recently, and overall, I couldn’t really get into it. I don’t know what it was. It was an interesting story, yet the voices didn’t really come alive in the way the previous audiobooks in the series did. Susan Duerden – an actress who’s best known for playing Carole Littleton on Lost and has recorded many books on tape – plays Waters. Mandy Williams previously narrated as her, so I’m confused as to why the role was recast. She did a great job portraying her with determination and empathy in The Widow and The Child, whereas Duerden feels a little more tired, but maybe that’s to signify how much Kate has aged. I really don’t know.
When I wrote about the audiobook in the “What Am I Reading” series, I made a mistake. I mentioned that Fiona Hardingham voiced Alex, while Katharine Lee McEwan voiced Leslie. It’s supposed to be Hardingham voicing the latter, and McEwan voicing the former.
Katharine Lee McEwan is back and takes on the role of Alex. I like how she strikes a balance between a juvenile and a mature voice for a teenager who plans so much in advance, and yet everything goes wrong the moment she and her friend land in Thailand. I mentioned in The Child review that she sounded too young to play Angela – the grieving mom, so I’m glad she got a role more appropriate to her vocal tone. McEwan was definitely the strongest narrator out of this group.
Fiona Hardingham plays Lesley. She had previously acted in roles such as a News Anchor in Godzilla: King of the Monsters and an Arrival Video Narrator in Pokemon Detective Pikachu as well as narrated several other audiobooks. She’s fine. That’s it.
Another actor who’s back is Nicholas Guy Smith, and he voices Detective Bob Sparkes. It’s nice to hear Smith inject frustration and sadness into Sparkes. I just love hearing Smith’s voice even if it’s not reaching its full potential. If one is going to read it, I would suggest getting the physical copy or an ebook as opposed to the audiobook.
Overall, The Suspect by Fiona Barton is a fine book that has its pros and cons. I like The Child more, but this title did some things differently from the two. And, that’s pretty commendable. I would recommend this title to those who like Fiona Barton, international missing cases, and mysteries with an emphasis on the reporting/journalism side of things. As far as I know, there are no new titles in that series, but Barton published a new book called Local Gone Missing in last week! I look forward to reading it. At least that title is more unique.
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