Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review - "Lullaby" by Claire Seeber

Jessica Finnegan is sitting in the coffee shop of London's Tate Museum with her infant son, waiting for her husband. A vaguely familiar woman approaches and gets a little too close to baby Louis, setting Jessica on edge. Her husband Mickey finally returns to his family, and the three begin wandering through the exhibits. Mickey and Louis get ahead of Jessica and eventually she realizes she can't find them. Thus begins a harrowing two weeks for her--Mickey turns up in the hospital, beaten and suffering amnesia, but Louis is nowhere to be found.

Jessica and Mickey met through work, and the sparks flew immediately. She got pregnant quickly, and they married a couple of months before her due date. Jessica feels as though she doesn't know her husband very well, but she thinks they have plenty of time to get used to each other. She also didn't take to mothering instinctively, but she has come to learn how to love her son fiercely and will do anything to get him back. Mickey has an ex-wife and Jessica has a younger brother, both of whom show up in the story and become tangled in the search for Louis.

Lullaby doesn't read like a crime novel, nor is it a character study of a mother with a missing child. Events unfold slowly, and in between clues there is a lot of crying, puffing on asthma inhalers, and drinking booze. The narrative is first-person, so we do see into Jessica's mind and can feel her emotions, but somehow she isn't an entirely sympathetic character. She does have a backstory that gets told in fragments as the plot continues and that colors her wariness towards the police, but there isn't much suspense. It's like author Seeber couldn't decide whether she was writing a thriller, a mystery, or something else. The police are involved; in fact, one female officer is dispatched to essentially babysit Jessica throughout her ordeal. Jessica has daddy issues, but the DI in charge of her case proves himself trustworthy, which helps her overcome her suspicion of the police in particular and men in general. However, that aspect of the story is somehow secondary to Jessica's own inner turmoil and her need to be active in the hunt for her baby. She goes off on her own a lot, trying to guess where he might be and sometimes following her brother Robbie in an attempt to find out what he might know.

Since the setting is London and the author is from there, the vocabulary is very English. It's not a major hindrance for American readers, but those unfamiliar with certain slang terms may find them a little distracting. Just be prepared to do a lot of contextual reading if you're not used to British-isms.

It's not that I don't recommend this book, but I do review it with caution. The description I initially read about it made me think it was a suspense novel or perhaps a mystery. If you don't go in with that attitude, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did. If you're looking for more of a character study, try The Weight of Silence. (The link is for my review.)

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