Written by Kerry Wilkinson – Following the huge success of his three self-published novels Locked In, Vigilante and The Woman in Black, Think of the Children is Kerry Wilkinson’s first new book published since signing with the major international publisher Pan Macmillan. It’s the fourth book in the DS Jessica Daniel series and follows the detective as she investigates murders in Manchester. Pan Macmillan has now also published Wilkinson’s first three books both digitally and in print, and will be taking the DS Jessica Daniel series forward with two further novels after this release.
Whilst sitting in traffic on her way to work, the book opens with Jessica Daniel witnessing a car crash. First on the scene, she realises the driver is dead, but the biggest shock awaits her when she opens the car’s boot and discovers the body of a child wrapped in plastic.
The boy is identified as missing child Isaac Hutchings and as Jessica tries to uncover the identity of the driver she runs into problems – the car was stolen, the dead man is carrying no form of identification, and his prints are not stored on the system. The only clues as to his identification are a key and a map, which were found on the passenger seat of the car. Unfortunately, even more questions are raised when the map leads the detectives to a wooded area. Upon excavation Jessica and her team find a large, clear plastic bag containing a tidily folded light blue football shirt and a pair of jeans. The clothing is later identified as that belonging to Toby Whittaker, a child who went missing 14 years ago and who still hasn’t been found.
The key, meanwhile, is found to unlock an allotment shed. When searched, it appears to contain no gardening tools, but instead a metal desk pushed against the wall opposite the door with a swivel chair underneath. The desk drawer contains a pad of paper with a list of names written in blue ink. Chills are sent up Jessica’s spine when she sees that Isaac Hutchings is the first name on the list, written in neat block capital letters next to an address. It isn’t long before another child on the list goes missing and it becomes a race against time to find out who is spying on and kidnapping local children, and what relevance it has to a 14-year-old cold case.
Jessica is a likeable character. She is an admirable cop who is completely immersed in her cases, living and breathing them. She has enjoyable banter with her partner Dave and a blossoming friendship with co-worker Izzy. These relationships serve to make Jessica seem more human and realistic as a character. However, I felt the romantic element between Jessica and boyfriend Adam didn’t contribute much to the storyline.
Think of the Children offers an interesting take on police politics where there is pressure from the top to not just close cases but look good whilst doing it, even if that means sweeping some things under the carpet. This is the fourth in the series and there are occasionally references to past events which are hard to understand, but generally it works well as a standalone novel. The book is too slow at some points, with some chapters pulling you along better than others, however on the whole it is both exciting and full of unexpected twists. It has a jaw-dropping ending that you won’t see coming.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars