Goodreads: Little Darlings
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publish date: 30 April 2019
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Supernatural Thriller
“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother.
Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies. Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.
Oh wow, this one really took me ages to read! I think I kind of psyched myself out of reading it because it’s a supernatural thriller and the supernatural isn’t really my jam. I had no clue when I read the blurb that it would have these elements, I honestly thought it would be about a woman who was suffering from postpartum depression or something along those lines. I don’t really see this as a thriller but perhaps more of folk tale inspired slow burn mystery. That said, I don’t think my apprehension to read this affected how I felt about the story. I didn’t dislike it, but it did fill me with a lot of anxiety, though I enjoyed the uncertainty of not knowing what was real and what wasn’t.
The story is told in alternating perspectives between Lauren and Detective Sergeant Joanna Harper. Harper’s POV was pretty much standard police procedure and detective work, although there was a lot of personal conflict with her character. She felt pity for Lauren but also understood her situation as a mother, which led her to taking the leap and believing something that should’ve been completely ridiculous. Ultimately though it was for the wrong reasons and only added to make the situation worse.
Lauren’s anguish, depression and loneliness was palpable throughout the book. It left me feeling anxious about what would happen next, and sad for her character and what she was going through. My least favorite character in this novel was her husband, Patrick, who was honestly such a weak and spineless man; I wanted to push him off a cliff with how patronizing and selfish he was! To be honest though, since we only saw his character through Lauren’s eyes, I wasn’t sure whether he was really like that or if it what we saw was clouded by Lauren’s depression and mania.
Perhaps the reason why I didn’t absolutely love this story was because I don’t have children, and at this point in my life, I’m leaning towards not having any of my own. This story is fully about a mother’s love for her children and her willingness to do just about anything to get them back, and I couldn’t really connect with that anguish and desperation. While I’m not saying that it’s necessary to have children to understand the intensity of this novel and Lauren’s character, I think it definitely helps to connect with it.
I thought this was a fairly well-paced mystery, although certain parts in the middle really slowed it down for me and got boring. I liked how every chapter began with excerpts from various folk tales–it definitely added to the creepy supernatural vibe of the story. I will also admit that this was a lot less creepy than I thought, although many things to do with babies and the supernatural kind of freak me out in general 🙂 There ended up being quite a lot of elements in this story and at first I was wondering how Golding would tie it all together, especially when a new one was introduced so late in the book; but while the climax was slightly unrealistic, this was inspired by a folk tale so it fit with the overall story arc. One thing I will say is that this novel kept me guessing throughout and although I knew none of it could be real, I still couldn’t help but wondering “what if“. Overall, I’m impressed with how Melanie Golding packaged everything for a satisfying, if not slightly sad, conclusion.
Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free copy in exchange for a free copy. This book was published on 30 April 2019.