Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (April 30, 2019)
Length: 312 pages
Little Darlings is exactly the type of mystery/thriller I love to read, containing just a touch of the paranormal and enough creepiness to push this one into almost horror territory. Best of all, it features allusions to the changeling myth, the idea that fairies could steal a baby away, leaving behind an altered or possibly evil simulacrum in its place.
This is the story of Lauren Tranter, a new mom to twin boys Morgan and Riley. The birth was difficult with complications, further adding to her exhaustion and frazzled nerves. One night, alone during her recovery at the maternity ward, Lauren is convinced that a strange woman was trying to get into her room and take her babies, even though everyone, from her husband to the hospital staff, are telling her that the experience was all in her mind, a symptom of her overtiredness and trauma. But Lauren knows what she saw, and the memory of the event has made her so anxious and skittish that even after returning home, she is afraid to leave the house or let her boys out of her sight for a second.
Finally, her husband Patrick has had enough, persuading Lauren that she has to start going out and seeing people again, which would help get her back into the normal routine of life. Knowing deep down he is right, Lauren takes his advice and takes the now six-week old twins out in their stroller for a walk—a miscalculation that she ends up regretting forever. All it took was a moment of distraction, a few minutes where Lauren’s attention was elsewhere while she rested on a park bench, and suddenly, Morgan and Riley were gone. Thankfully, the police quickly mobilized a search and found the twins by the river before anything could happen, and a person of interest was also taken into custody for the abduction. But rather than the joy of being reunited with her babies, Lauren feels instead a terror and a revulsion when she looks down into the twins’ faces. She knows with a mother’s instincts and every fiber of her being that these are NOT her sons. It is as she feared; the strange woman at the hospital had done what she promised she would do—steal away her babies and replace them with her own unnatural, inhuman spawn. Lauren doesn’t understand why no one else can see this, but everyone thinks that the pressures must have finally gotten to her, that the twin’s brief disappearance was what broke her mind. Only Joanne Harper, a determined Detective Sergeant who had been the original officer to respond to Lauren’s emergency call at the hospital seems willing to consider the possibility that not all is as it seems.
To begin, I have to say that when it comes to books, I don’t really scare that easily. The written word isn’t like the movies; without any physical images, it falls to great writing and a very talented author to generate the same kind of visuals in my mind. I can probably count on one hand the number of books that have managed to truly and genuinely creep me out. Now though, I can add Little Darlings to these exclusive ranks. Seriously, what is it about children and babies that make them such an effectively terrifying trope when it comes to the horror genre? And twins, especially creepy twins! There were scenes in this book that would have made me run screaming from the room if I ever had them happened to me. Reading this one in the dead of night was probably not the best idea, but at the same time I relished in the thrill of being scared, and some parts were just so gripping I could not put the book down even though it was well past my bedtime.
I think one big reason why Little Darlings got to me so much was my ability to relate to Lauren. My heart broke to read about all those complex emotions in her, which transported me back to those uncertain months following the birth of my oldest, when I was a nervous and paranoid wreck. Let’s be clear, there’s no way I could have read this novel when I was a new mom—it’d be too disturbing, and I’d be waaaaay too freaked out. I likely would have been driven to new heights of terror, for there are things in here that are the stuff of nightmares for any parent. I am fine now, but I still remember with uneasy clarity the horrible postpartum anxiety I experienced, the worries and fear that I would fail miserably as a mother and that I was doing everything wrong. And I still spent most of the time reading this book with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and that’s when I wasn’t also getting the heebie-jeebies.
Bottom line, I had a good time reading this book. Little Darlings was chilling and addictive, a fantastic thriller if you want both a touch of horror and some mystery in one neat package. Great characterization, atmosphere and writing in this one! Recommended.