“Ella Williams is ten years old. She loves her granddad and her sister and her shiny new red shoes.
She’s just been abducted by a killer – someone who kidnaps young girls, holds them for a few weeks, then returns their bodies clothed in white foundling dresses.
The crimes are clearly linked to notorious child murderer Louis Kinsella, locked away in a high-security hospital. Is it a copycat? Or is he giving someone direct orders from behind bars?
To save Ella’s life, psychologist Alice Quentin must form a relationship with Kinsella. But he is slow to give up his secrets, and all the while, time is running out…”
Crime novelist Kate Rhodes was born in South London. The daughter of two teachers, Rhodes herself went on to become an English teacher. Now a full-time writer, she lives with her husband in Cambridge.
“The Winter Foundlings” is the third book in a series featuring the character of Alice Quentin. Although there are one or two vague references to events in previous books, this is not enough to prevent being able to read this one as a standalone novel.
In the prologue of this book we witness Ella being snatched from the street outside her primary school and bundled into the back of a van. She is the fourth girl to be snatched from the streets of North London in the past twelve months, and so far two of their bodies had been found – months after their disappearances.
We are then introduced to Dr. Alice Quentin. She is a forensic psychologist at Guy’s Hospital in London who has decided to take a six month sabbatical at Northwood – a high security psychiatric hospital where she has been invited to write an in-depth study.
Not long after arriving she is contacted by DI Tania Goddard with the request that she interview the infamous killer Louis Kinsella – being held at Northwood. The third girl’s body had been left on the steps of the Foundling Museum in London and the police need Quentin to talk to Kinsella because the circumstances surrounding the missing girls had all hallmarks of the crimes he had committed years previously.
This is a book rich in detail – although I haven’t any knowledge of the inner workings of any psychiatric hospital, let alone a high security one, the descriptions here of just such an institution seem to be very credible.
Equally believable are the characters. None are one-dimensional, we are given enough depth to make them interesting, learning about their personal lives, some of their backgrounds, and – vitally – to make sure that there is plenty of room for doubt with a fair number of them when it comes to working out who to suspect of being the killer.
Also interesting was the connection with the Foundling Museum, especially coming so soon after I had discovered the existence of the original Foundling Hospital through listening to the latest album by The Unthanks, “Mount The Air”.
I did feel that, although described as an exceptional ten year old, Ella’s thoughts and actions were perhaps a little unbelievable at times. The only other negative (if indeed the previous observation is a negative) is that when Quentin was being driven around by a police driver the vehicle that they were travelling changed from car to van and back again a few times. A minor quibble I know, but surely no one refers to a van as a car?