Review: The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton’s The Suspect was published on the 24th January 2019 and is the fourth crime novel from The Sunday Times and New York Times best-selling author.

The Suspect: The Story

Alex had been planning her trip to Thailand with her best friend Mags for months.  It was meant to be their trip of a lifetime before embarking on university studies but at the last minute Mags pulled out and she was persuaded to travel with Rosie instead.

With very little in common Alex was unsure.  She didn’t want to miss out on her trip but didn’t have the confidence to travel alone and therefore needed someone. Rosie may have been annoying and not really someone Alex would naturally gravitate towards but with such little time to rearrange things, options were limited.  How bad could it really get?

To begin with, it looked like things were going really well. Alex frequently posted on social media saying how incredible everything was and had contacted her parents to not only arrange a time for them to open her A-Level results together but also to let them know that they would soon be moving on from Bangkok; heading for the beaches down south.

Unfortunately, things aren’t always as they seem.  Alex and Rosie had bickered since arriving; Rosie complaining about the heat and the state of the hostel they were in while Alex complained constantly about how much Rosie drank and the drugs she had started taking.  Clearly, they were two girls that, under normal circumstances, would never have travelled together.

Then things get even worse.

Having missed her prearranged call home to get her exam results, Alex’s parents begin to worry.  Their daughter would not have forgotten about such an important call and after a couple of days the panic reaches boiling point and they call the police.

At the same time, the papers get hold of the story – two teenage girls missing in Thailand – it could be nothing but then again…

Journalist Kate Waters is the one that decides to delve further into the story after she starts thinking once again about her son Jake, who has been working in Thailand for a couple of years.  She very rarely hears from him and all she knows that he is working with a Turtle Conservation Programme down south – or is he?  Little did she know at the beginning how involved she would later become.

It soon becomes evident that things are not ok and as the police ask more questions of their Thai colleagues a situation comes to light that involves the death of two European girls.

With the news that a fire has destroyed a hostel on Khao San Road in Bangkok the parents of Alex and Rosie panic.  It wasn’t the hostel that Alex had originally booked into but it seems they never kept that booking, so who knows where they were staying.

Fraught with worry, the parents of both girls quickly book flights and head out to Thailand, praying that it is not their children’s bodies’ currently awaiting identification.  Kate, always wanting to be at the heart of any big news story, books herself onto the same flight knowing that she is already favoured by Alex’s mother, Lesley.   When they finally land in Bangkok however, it is not only Lesley that receives devastating news – it seems that Jake may not be where he says he is or doing what Kate believes he was.

As the story unravels, the lives of Alex and Jake seem to further collide with devastating consequences for both families.

Will anyone come out of the tragedy unscathed? It seems very unlikely.

Will Kate ever uncover what really happened on the day of the fire? Is the suspect in custody, the true offender?

Why I think others should read this novel by Fiona Barton

While this is a work of fiction, the events that unfold are on the whole very believable.  We have all heard news stories where teenagers have gone on a gap year and ended up getting into trouble.  Of course, it could happen anywhere but with Thailand being such a popular place for younger people to visit it at the moment, it does seem like an appropriate location.

The story focuses not only on tragic events but also on how the press and the police when working together, can sometimes uncover far more than when working in silo of one another.  It also brings to light the difficulties the authorities face when working with law enforcement of a different country to try and get to the truth.

Fiona Barton has written a book that I struggled to put down; The Suspect is a real page-turner that took just hours for me to consume it was that good.

Fiona Barton author of The Suspect which is about two girls who travel to Thailand on a gap year with horrific consequences.

Have you read any of Fiona Barton’s novels? Perhaps you have also read The Suspect and would like to share your thoughts. Maybe you have read similar books by a different author that you think we should know about.  If so, please leave your suggestions below.

For those thinking of heading to Thailand on a gap year and after some inspiration perhaps Katy Colins, Destination Thailand, would be a good place to start!


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