Keenan, Shy - 'The Stolen Ones'
Cordelia Hunter is a psychologist specialising in children traumatised by abuse. She works for a charity - J4C - Justice4Children, and is asked by a specialist police unit to help them track down a paedophile ring who are using the internet to sell their wares.
Cordelia has personal experience of what the children are suffering and her professional and personal experience allows her to see that one of the children - Alice - is sending secret messages. If these can be interpreted, then the children could be traced and saved. The police team she joins as consultant are all very experienced but are not open to all of Cordelia's suggestions or methods of obtaining information. They get very close to identifying one of the ring, but when the house is searched, they find the children have been moved, and Cordelia is targeted with e-mails and phone messages referring to her childhood experiences. The team realise that the children are in even greater danger, of being moved out of the country or even killed. They must be found very quickly.
The book is well written, most of the characters believable and human. Cordelia's character, born of her experiences, and the character of the little girl at the centre of the book - Alice - are very similar - survivors and fighters. The book also includes a theme concerning the impact of this sort of work on the people trying to stop it and get the children to safety.
In the sort of situation that this book deals with, the children are the most important, of course they are, but unlike some authors, the writer here has recognised that in the way that the characters are drawn. Alice has a strong voice in the book. This allows us to get emotionally involved with her, not seeing her as merely a victim, but a child who has lost everything but who is still an individual with hopes and dreams. The paedophiles are the most sketchy, no excuses are made or reasons for what they do, and they almost seem the least important because of that.
The book deals with the themes of child abuse and child pornography and because of that, I found it a very difficult book to read, one that I had to put down at regular intervals, as the images it generated were overpowering. The writer, Shy Keenan, founded Phoenix Survivors, an organisation that campaigns for justice for victims of sexual abuse and to rescue children at risk. She has written non-fiction before, but this is her first novel, which, with its assured voice, may get over the message that this horrific trade, with the impact it has on the individuals - children, police and other professionals, must be stopped.
Susan White, England
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