Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Random Acts of Unkindness* for review, but the opinions in this post are my own and unbiased.
DS Jan Pearce has a big problem. Her fifteen year old son, Aiden, is missing. Jan draws together the threads of missing person cases spanning fifty years and finds tragic connections and unsolved questions. Bessy Swain, an elderly woman that Jan finds dead on her search for Aiden, and whose own son Thomas was also missing, may have the answers. Jan uses Bessy’s information and her own skills and instinct to track down the missing boys. But is it too late for Aiden?
It can take me a while to really get into a book. I spend the first few chapters getting the characters and their relationships straight in my head, sometimes flipping back a few pages to remind myself of some key details of the story. My rule of thumb is that if a book hasn’t grabbed my attention by the time I’ve read a quarter of it, it probably never will do.
That was never going to be a problem with Random Acts of Unkindness – it had me gripped from the first page, no, the very first words. It’s a story about motherhood, love and loss set in the North West of England. Although it’s not about the Moors Murders, Saddleworth Moor acts as a backdrop to the story, and those terrible events are a major influence on the plot.
To tell you the truth, I wavered over reading this book. It’s about two young boys who go missing, fifty years apart, and the battles that their mothers have to try and find them. I have teenage boys, and just the thought of them going missing is enough to give me nightmares. But I’m very glad that I did agree to do this review, as Random Acts of Unkindness has turned out to one of my favourite books of the year so far.
The book focuses on the battles that Jan Pearce and Betty Swain face to get people to take their sons’ disappearances seriously. And this is something which is very much true in real life. If a young, pretty white girl goes missing then it will be splashed all across the media and the police will be mobilised quickly. But when a teenage boy goes missing, the assumption is that he must have run away. There will be less media coverage, and police questions will tend to focus on what kind of problems he was having. Family arguments? Difficulties at school? Girlfriend problems?
Because I have teenage sons, I felt a real empathy for the two mothers in the book. Jacqueline Ward fills Random Acts of Unkindness with characters that are very believable, there are no cartoon baddies in this story. There are some incredibly shocking moments, but they are dotted around the story rather than it being a cover to cover gore-fest.
This is definitely one of my favourite books so far in 2016. I raced through it in just a couple of evenings and by the time I got to the end of it, I wanted more! As the book progressed, I did wonder how the stories would be resolved – I hate it when there’s a fairytale ending at the end of a thriller novel. But the ending of Random Acts of Unkindness was very satisfying. It tied up loose ends, but didn’t try to convince the reader that everything was all better again.
Random Acts of Unkindness is Jacqueline Ward’s second novel, and it’s the first in the DS Jan Pearce series. I will definitely be looking out for more DS Jan Pearce novels in the future
A very well crafted thriller that grabbed my attention from the first words, and kept hold of it right through to the end – 8.5/10
Random Acts of Unkindness* is published by Novelesque in paperback and is also available in Kindle format.
If you’d like to read more about Random Acts of Unkindness, why not pop over and take a look at Helerina Blogs and Bibliobeth, who are also hosting the blog tour. And if you’d like to read those opening words that grabbed my attention, click here to read an extract from the first chapter.