A little boy has seen a horrific murder but is too traumatized to speak. Detective Kerri Blasco struggles to connect with him...
Charlie Sparkes peeks out to see his mother and another young woman brutally shot. Hysterical, the brave child bolts into the cold November night for help. He screams and cries, only to fall into more trauma.
Homicide Detective Kerri Blasco is called to the murder scene. One woman lies dead next to the blood soaked rug where Rachel Sparkes was seriously wounded. With little memory of the attack, she has been taken to the hospital - but where is her child? He too, Kerri discovers, now lies in a hospital bed, mute and traumatized in a fetal position, refusing even food and water.
Charlie must have seen what happened. Kerri's heart aches for this piteous little boy and she struggles to help him; struggles, too to find the monster who did this horrible crime. "It's your kind of case," Sergeant Alex Brand, Kerri's boss and partner tells her, stepping up police urgency when another innocent is shot, and then another...
Kerri Blasco finds herself more emotionally obsessed with this case than with any other, despite clear and onrushing danger to herself...
A bloodbath... A terrified child running for his life...
That's what we find at the beginning of J.A. Schneider's fourth chilling thriller in her Detective Kerri Blasco series. This is a fast-paced book that grabbed my undivided attention from the get-go and I couldn't put it down till I turned the last page. It can very well be read as a standalone thriller.
The whole story centres around a little five-year-old boy who is testimony to a horrific scene his little eyes and mind should never have had to witness. His own mother and her friend are shot in his own home by a masked intruder. Covered in blood, the poor terrified boy escapes into the dark streets outside with the killer in pursuit. Fortunately he is saved by someone before the killer had a chance to snatch him.
Detectives Kerri Blasco and Alex Brand are alerted and rush to the scene to start their investigation. Lauren, a friend visiting the boy and his mum, has been killed on the spot. Rachel, the mother, is rushed to hospital barely alive. The little boy, the only person to witness what's happened, goes mute with shock. He's frozen, is not saying a word and has no eye contact with anyone. Kerri's heart goes out to the poor terrified boy. She knows that in order to solve this crime, she needs to coax little Charlie into opening up and recounting what has gone on, but that would be easier said than done. With no apparent motive, no evidence left at the scene and just a mute little boy as witness, Kerri knows that this case will be a tough nut to crack. Who is the killer? Why did he target the two women? Is it someone from one of the women's past? Someone with some grudge maybe? Did Charlie recognise this person? Will Kerri be able to persuade him to talk? And will she be able to keep him safe? The killer might resurface at any time to finish off the job.
Well, I've been meaning to read this book for a long while. Now that I've read it, I can only kick myself for not having done so before. It's just amazing! A pure adrenaline rush! I love Ms Schneider's 'voice', the way she structures her sentences and the words she uses to make my heart leap with the bursts of suspense she knows how to inject so well in her books. I've read the other books in the series bar the first one and I can say that it's getting better and better with each new instalment.
I just love Kerri Blasco, this brilliant, intuitive cop with the ability to read a crime scene like an open book and a painful past behind her. I enjoy reading about the secret love story she shares with her superior Alex, how they strive to keep it under wraps at work for fear of being separated, how they function so well as a team and a couple and how they care for each other, making each other's pain and anguish go away at the end of each trying day in the privacy of one or the other's residence. They're just so sweet together!
In this book, the author did a great job in exposing Kerri's gentle, patient and caring nature, but also her ingenuity and resourcefulness. The way she takes care of Charlie, how she goes out of her way to take his little mind off the horrors he witnessed, but at the same time gently getting out of him what little information he might be keeping locked inside, was pure professionalism. Only Charlie holds the key to solving this case. Will Kerri find the right way to take it?
The author keeps the killer's identity a mystery till the very end. Through twists and turns she made me suspicious of various characters along the way, however that final twist was a complete surprise to me. I really wasn't expecting it, but it did suddenly answer the many questions I had swirling in my mind. Well done!
Shoeless Child is an outstanding, spine-chilling psychological thriller that kept me on my toes throughout, I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it. Now I can't wait for book 5!
With thanks to the author for a review copy which I voluntarily accepted to read and review.
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J.A. Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine. She is the author of the Embryo medical thriller series, and of the Detective Kerri Blasco Police/Psychological Thrillers: Fear Dreams, Her Last Breath, Watching You, and Shoeless Child.