The Crying Child - Barbara Michaels

(No Series)

Trapped Between Madness and Imagination....
From the moment she arrived on King's Island, Joanne McMullen knew that her sister's grief over losing her child had driven her dangerously close to madness. Jo grew anxious when Mary confided that she heard a thin, insistent wail that rose up beyond the dark Maine woods. And Mary's desperate midnight searches for the anguished voice aroused a chilling terror within Jo. Maybe Mary was losing her mind. But then it came again - the mystifying cry in the night. And this time Jo heard it too...

Come on, just the title alone is worth a second glance, right?

As usual Michaels indulges in cozy storytelling with a different twist on her characters. Here the heroine of the story is suffering from desiring forbidden fruit, so to speak, but is highly moral and won't follow Eve's path. Between her urge for independence and witty humor - and thankfully less of a bitchy nature than many other Michaels characters - she's another likable act to follow. The sister Mary is an intriguing one, not a usual for Michaels, a little reminiscent of an early, watered down V.C. Andrews character. She's frail and fragile, being protected from all sides, yet with a cunning glint in her eye when it suits her. Her husband was just in between, a character to feel for but no one who overly stands out. Overall, as always, the blend is a gripping one that only serves the stories purpose.

Plot wise, it's another good one. You never know with her books whether there really is something supernatural, or whether it's something that ends up being disproven. I won't spoil that part for you, but will say the emphasis the supernatural is handled a little less than usual. It's the main theme of the story, but doesn't involve the same sort of endless debates, research, and multiple signs and symptoms other novels share. While not as detailed, it's still as mystifying, and I in no way could imagine the ending. In fact, the revelation was a smidge creepy, which is also abnormal for Michaels.

Pace wise, it's lightning as she hops on the plane in chapter one and conjures up important facts in her mind, then plunges right into the heart of the matter. A reader and fan of mysteries won't grow bored. The trademark love story is of course present as always, without much steam or surprise. Suspense is high when it's meant to be in scarce parts, and Michaels typical language use is appealing.

On the downside, while the story didn't drag its feet and remained interesting, I didn't stay 100% glued in all parts. More action would have spruced up a few scenes. This is one of Michael's earlier works and it wouldn't have hurt to flesh out a few characters more, particularly the good old doctor. His enthusiasm for his patients seemed a little overdone and stereotypical as well. It was never explained about his avid treatment of the psychiatrist, but the end result leaves the reader assuming it was all in the heroines head. From reading the story, to me it wasn't, and them having a sort of conversation about it would have been preferred. Overall a sweet ending (after the chilling part, of course)

If you're in the mood for a delightful little mystery with a tinge of morbidity, The Crying Child's your midnight companion.

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