A young mother’s nightmare comes true…the tube doors close with her baby still on the train. Struggling as a single mother, Emma sometimes wishes that her thirteen-month-old son Ritchie would just disappear. But when, one quiet Sunday evening, Ritchie is abducted by a stranger from the London Underground, Emma is thrown into a situation worse than she could have ever imagined. But why don’t the police seem to fully believe her story? Why would they think that she would want to hurt her own baby? If Emma wants Ritchie back, it looks like she’ll have to find him herself. With the help of a stranger called Rafe, the one person who seems to believe her, she goes in search of her son. And she is determined to get him back…no matter what it takes.
From the very first page of this book I was hooked. It starts at the fateful day at the tube station and I was immediately interested. A similar thing happened to me when I was a toddler, as I got on the bus while my Mum got my brother from his pushchair. I don’t have many memories of this age, but I do remember seeing my Mum, chasing the bus, completely panic-stricken. Luckily for us the driver saw her and stopped and all was well, but I have wondered ‘what if’ and have been extra vigilant with my own children on public transport. As I’d been anxious about this happening to myself, I was able to relate and share Emma’s terror from the start.
As the police became involved in the story, it became clear that this was no ordinary crime thriller. While being told in the third person, the story stays with Emma, the victim for the entirety of the book. The police remain minor characters and so we see the whole situation through Emma’s eyes only. This was fantastically done as I became so involved with Emma and her plight. I felt torn in two as I empathised so much with her, but with the police’s doubts, I was also suspicious. I found this kept me turning the pages and totally intrigued. The only person who seems to believe Emma is Rafe, a man who entered the tube station as the train pulled away. I also couldn’t work his involvement in the whole thing out, and while I began the book thinking this was going to be an easy and predictable read, it wasn’t and kept me guessing right to the end with it’s many twists and turns.
What really made the book stand out to me, however, were the flashbacks to Emma’s life before Ritchie goes missing. These were told alternatively to the story of his disappearance and very slowly her life, from meeting Oliver to the desperate day 2 days before her baby vanished, is revealed. This almost becomes like another story, about a decline into postnatal depression. I thought these parts were written superbly, and as someone who did suffer with postnatal depression and was relatively alone in the past with a very young child, could relate to everything that Emma went through.
In the weeks leading up to Ritchie’s vanishing, Emma tries to seek help from her Doctor. She visits just days before and admits something which should have alerted her GP instantly to her state of mind and been acted upon, only she doesn’t. She refers her to the health visitor, who Emma has never met and is on maternity leave until the next week. The author obviously wanted to tackle communication in multi disciplinary teams and the possible consequences when it fails, something which is currently a big topic and very relevant. It was extremely sad to see how a vulnerable person could stay off the radar, with no one taking any responsibility, whether from incompetence or lack of funding. While this was only a story, I knew this was something that happens every day, which made it all the sadder. I was then rather surprised to see that Abbie Taylor herself is a Doctor. It seems very brave of her to identify the failures of the system she may work in and speak out about it in her novel, if that was her intention.
Would I recommend Emma’s Baby? If you like Women’s fiction, realistic characters that are easily related to and a bit of suspense then yes! It’s an easy read, perfect for bedtime reading and will keep you guessing until the end. Be prepared to shed a few tears along the way, especially in the final chapters. But inside the great story well told, is a reality and it certainly made me think about how vulnerable we are when we are alone and how terrible postnatal depression actually is.