Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Downing

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“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

Lauren Tranter has just given birth to beautiful twin boys; her miracle babies. However, her happiness takes a chilling turn, when a mysterious woman appears on the maternity ward late at night, demanding Lauren choose between her babies to swap with one of the woman’s own set of twins. Lauren is determined to keep her boys safe at all costs, because she knows the woman won’t stop until she has Lauren’s boys. There was no evidence of any intruder, so no one believes Lauren’s story, except Detective Joanna Harper. Harper investigates Lauren’s claims due to her own traumatic past, despite her boss telling her to drop the case.
Little Darlings is a story about the depth of a mother’s love entwined with unsettling folklore,and hits home a parent’s worst nightmare.

I loved this story. I really loved this story. It was creepy, ensnaring and made my imagination want to climb under the duvet until it was safe to come out. There was such a building tension that had me psychologically hooked from beginning to end.

What worked here was the execution and development of the mystery. The plot throughout teeters between the idea of this being a psychological thriller or a supernatural thriller, which made for a fascinating read. The inclusion of quotes from folklore tales and stories of changelings, really made the mystery feel otherworldly and unnerving.
Combined with this, was the story’s ability to seize control of any reader’s parental instincts and then plunge them into a blender of terror. When every chapter wrapped up, I was left with growing butterflies in my stomach. I was scared and anxious for Lauren and her babies, and dreaded the outcome regardless of whether or not the book was primarily psychological or supernatural.

The other thing that worked here was the awesome ensemble of likeable and loathsome characters, who were easy to connect with.
I loved Lauren and Harper. Lauren was like any new mother (loving yet nervous…) but had a lot more to contend with; from two babies instead of one, a serious lack of support from her spouse and the fear of a woman trying to take her babies. Her character was easily empathised with.
For a short time, I felt the introduction of Harper’s narrative was needless. I wanted to charge ahead reading about Lauren etc., but with Harper’s development in amongst Lauren’s nightmare, I began to love reading more about her as well. And just for the sake of saying it, yes, I loathed Lauren’s husband, Patrick. And to all ladies and gents out there, if your other half was to treat you as crap as Patrick treated Lauren, DITCH THEIR ASS.

Maybe my favourite thing was the victim was believed/supported by one of the central members of police. There was no hostility or bullying tactics from Harper to Lauren, even if Harper found Lauren’s narrative far-fetched. I wish more mystery thrillers pulled this approach off. I’ll reiterate my feelings about police procedurals being so hostile to victims – I hate those kinds of plots. Yes, they’re real life, but some are so exaggerated. A massive THANK YOU to the author for writing a detective who was compassionate and considerate, even if it was through the character’s own bias, because I loved Harper’s faith in Lauren. Additionally, I liked that the topic of mental health was handled very well.

I had a minor gripe with the ending as I felt it could have been polished off more, for both Harper and Lauren, with some communication between the ladies. I just felt the book needed something a bit more after the climax. Ultimately, the wrap up isn’t the happy ending I would have liked, especially when babies are involved. But that just adds to the reader’s psychological horror of it, doesn’t it?

Overall, I read this over 2 days and I’m rating it 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 as it is a cracking debut. There were some issues at the ending that were unsatisfying, but despite this, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Someone needs to buy the rights to this as a film ASAP, because it would be one heck of a movie. Little Darlings was so eerie to make the hairs on my arms stand tall, I won’t be forgetting this story or the characters anytime soon.

 

Buy It Now

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Published 2nd May 2019
Genre: mystery, mystery thriller, psychological thriller, suspense, folklore

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*Thank you kindly to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an e-copy, in exchange for this honest review.


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