140. Light Shining in the Forest- Paul Torday

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Title: Light Shining in the Forest

Author: Paul Torday

Rating: ★★★

On the Shelves: Fiction> Crime/Suspense

Norman Stokoe has just been appointed Children’s Czar by the new government. He sells his flat and moves up north to take up the position. However before his first salary cheque has even hit his bank account, new priorities are set for the government department for which he works. The Children’s czar network is put on hold but it is too late to reverse the decision to employ Norman. So he is given a P.A. and a spacious office in a new business park on the banks of the Tyne. He settles down in his new leather chair behind his new desk, to wait for the green light to begin his mission. The green light never comes. What does happen is that two children go missing. As Children’s Czar, surely this case should fall within his remit, but Norman has built a career on doing nothing, on stamping pieces of paper with ‘send to the relevant department’. Now, faced with a campaigning journalist and a distraught mother, he is forced to become involved. The search will take him to dark places and will make him ask questions about the system he is supposed to uphold (Goodreads 2014)

I picked up this book expecting it to be a good suspense novel.

Warning: this is not a book for the faint hearted. There is blood and gore, and it gets pretty disturbing very quickly.

That being said, I could not put this book down. I had to know what was going on and why it was happening. I’ve not read any of Torday’s work before (although I have seen and enjoyed the movie of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), and this is one of those books where something about the cover just caught my eye and I couldn’t leave it on the shelf.

This book follows Norman, a civil servant who has worked with crime statistics for thirty years, to such an extent that his parroting of numbers has impressed those in charge so much that a whole new role is created just for him, a “children’s czar”. He moves away to Newcastle, and sits behind a desk waiting for his first job under this flashy new title, but due to the government being well…the government, things get muddled around and his first job never comes. He is forgotten about and left to sit behind his desk, claiming coffee expenses and twiddling his thumbs. Until an aspiriing journalist named Willie insists on interviewing him regarding the suspected linked cases of two missing children. Sudden his first job as Children’s Czar has crept up on him and it’s all systems go- too bad nobody has any idea exactly what the Children’s Czar is meant to do or how to do it. With the help of Willie, and his secretary, Pippa, they set out on a mission to try to find the missing links between these children, and to bring them home safely.

Norman, is not a likeable character- although he does redeem himself throughout this book and grow to be more approachable as it goes on. As I said early, there is a lot of disturbing scenes throughout this book- which I was not expecting, and it made me want to put the book down and look away…but I couldn’t. Torday made me need to find out what exactly was going on, and how, and why, and whether the kids would be returned safe or not.

I do recommend this book to people who like suspense and crime novels but fair warning to you about the disturbing scenes within this book.

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