Book Review – ‘The Next Girl’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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She thought he’d come to save her. She was wrong.

Deborah Jenkins pulls her coat around her as she sets out on her short walk home in the pouring rain. But she never makes it home that night. And she is never seen again…..

Four years later an abandoned baby girl is found wrapped in dirty rags on a doorstep.  An anonymous phone call urges the police to run a DNA test on the baby. But nobody is prepared for the results.

The newborn belongs to Deborah. She is still alive.

“If only it was a doll.  It should have been a doll.”

Albert Thomas is on his way home from the pub on a cold and rainy night. Lost in memories of his late wife, he sees what he thinks is litter right next to the bin outside the Library. Going to pick it up he discovers it is in fact an abandoned baby that feels ice cold and not crying.  He bangs on the doors of nearby houses begging for help until someone finally answers. The newborn is alive and quickly taken to hospital to be cared for while DI Gina Harte and her team arrive looking for clues to try and find the baby’s mother.

Four years had gone since he’d taken her and she still remembered that night like it was yesterday.”

Debbie is scared to cry for her baby, her captor doesn’t like it when she shows emotions or fear. Lying in the dirty bed covered in the blood she’s been losing since giving birth to her baby girl and with a chain around her ankle, all she can do is stare into the dark silently screaming with pain and heartbreak. She cherishes the few moments she was allowed to hold her daughter before he whisked her away but now she doesn’t know where her baby is or if she’s even alive. Relief and joy flood her when she overhears the TV saying that a newborn baby has been found alive. Her daughter is alive! She’s free! She begs her captor to make an anonymous call asking the police to do a DNA test on the baby so she can go live with her mother.  The police are confused by the call and shocked at the results. No one even knew that Debbie was still alive. DI Harte is convinced this means she was abducted and is renewed in her determination to find Debbie and bring her safely home to her family.

“Her job was important and she needed it, she loved it.”

The Next Girl is the first book in the DI Gina Harte series. I had already read book two before this, which is unusual as I prefer to read a series in order, so it felt a little strange already knowing a bit about the characters as they were being introduced.  I didn’t feel any of the character’s back stories were missing when I read the second book, but this one certainly gave a clearer picture of certain events and I connected with Gina on a greater level.

“The treatment that Hannah’s father had forced on her had turned her into a fighter, and now she needed to continue fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.”

In this book Gina is struggling with vivid flashbacks to her abusive marriage, particularly the night her husband died. In the 20 years since his death, she’s kept his violence a secret and has been haunted by the psychological torment of the nightmares and memories of his abuse. I thought this quote was a great insight into her as both a person and a police officer.  Gina still feels shame at being abused and I thought this storyline was written so sensitively and brilliantly as it not only shows how anyone can be abused, but also the way it impacts every facet of your life for years, even decades, after it ends. It was also a good way to have a connection between Gina and Deborah as the DI wonders what she’s been suffering the past four years and understands some of the fear she is probably living with.

“It’s like we’re dealing with a ghost. Someone who is right under our noses, but we just can’t see them.”

Gina and her team are getting increasingly frustrated as they seem to find one dead end after another.  Their best suspect has alibis for every time in question and their seems to be no new leads. But then one of Deborah’s old work colleagues mentions something he didn’t think was important enough to tell them when they originally interviewed him.  Could this be the lead they’ve been waiting for?

“Gina’s heart pounded in her chest…”

As did mine as I read this gripping novel.  It was so well written that I really couldn’t say who the abductor was, which added to the tension.  You were in the same position as the police and feel their desperation and urgency to find him and rescue Debbie before it’s too late. I loved the characters and connected mostly with Gina and Debbie.  Gina is a fantastic DI and I think the author has given her so many layers to her personality and you see that soft vulnerability alongside the tough, fierce, determined woman. A fantastic thriller simmering with suspense.

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