Book reviews: My Husband's Son by Deborah O'Connor

Heidi and Jason's marriage is by no means ordinary'¦

Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:18 pm
My Husbands Son byDeborah OConnor
My Husbands Son byDeborah OConnor

Unlike other couples drawn together by love, passion or shared interests, their relationship is based on two terrible tragedies. Heidi’s daughter was abducted and murdered, Jason’s son simply disappeared when he was aged just three.

United by a shared sense of terrible loss, their marriage is understandably fragile but when Heidi becomes convinced she has found Jason’s missing son, her obsession becomes so dangerous that it threatens to destroy their future together.

Welcome to the remarkable debut novel from television producer Deborah O’Connor, an exciting new writer with the mastery and assurance of a seasoned storyteller.

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My Husband’s Son, a twisting, turning tale of parenthood, tragedy, obsession and menace, explores the haunting legacy of losing a precious child whilst delivering a gripping psychological thriller.

Six long years ago, single mother Heidi’s daughter Lauren was abducted and murdered, leaving her every waking moment consumed by the loss of her child. She devised various personal methods of dealing with her life sentence and agreed to attend a conference for bereaved parents.

It was there that she met Jason whose son Barney disappeared just a year after Lauren was killed. Their shared loss brought them together, Heidi moved in with Jason – whose marriage to Vicky fell apart after Barney went missing – and now Heidi and Jason are married and living on Tyneside.

Being able to constantly share their hopes, fears and misery is like ‘being finally allowed to pick at a scab on your knee you’ve wanted to attack for ages, a scab that everyone else has told you to leave alone.’

But when, by chance, Heidi visits an off-licence in Gateshead, she glimpses a boy playing behind the counter who she is immediately certain is long-missing Barney. He is the right age, his face looks uncannily like pictures of young Barney and he has the same dark brown eyes as Jason.

She persuades Jason to call in at the shop but he is equally convinced that the child is not his, telling Heidi that he had an unbroken ‘animal-like’ bond with Barney from the moment he was born and would recognise him instinctively.

Unsure whether Jason is hiding something, Heidi starts making her own investigations, but gradually her life starts to fray at its already vulnerable edges and before long she has placed both herself and her marriage in danger…

Plotlines featuring missing or murdered children have become a popular theme in thrillers but O’Connor’s pulsating but poignant story provides a unique twist on the genre with its addictive blend of mystery, powerful emotions and page-turning suspense.

Is Jason truly convinced that the child isn’t his or is he hiding a dark secret? Is Heidi’s determination to prove the boy is Barney a genuine desire to reunite him with Jason or, haunted by Lauren’s murder, is she slowly losing her grip on reality?

With the disturbing issues of child abduction and murder at the heart of this complex story, O’Connor plays with our own emotions, driving us compulsively forward even as we feel an uncomfortable voyeuristic sense of looking in on another’s grief, confusion and anguish.

Absorbing, moving and with a stunning twist in its tail, this is a story that will leave your heart broken, your nails bitten and your brain whirring… (twenty7, paperback, £7.99)