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A brilliant psychological thriller beautifully written.

The Winter Foundlings - Kate Rhodes

Now here is an author I could read again and again. This psychological thriller had me riveted from start to finish so much so I read it in a day!


Whats it about?


Young girls are being snatched off the streets and their bodies turn up sometime later all dressed in white victorian nightdresses similar to the ones in the Foundlings Hospital Museum.


There is nothing for the police to go on to find the killer, and so psychologist Alice Quentin is asked to help find something they can start with.


(Goodreads) Synopsis: Four girls have disappeared in North London. Three are already dead. Britain’s most prolific child killer, Louis Kinsella, has been locked up in Northwood high-security hospital for over a decade. Now more innocents are being slaughtered, and they all have a connection to his earlier crimes. Psychologist Alice Quentin is doing research at Northwood. She was hoping for a break from her hectic London life, but she’ll do anything to help save a child – even if it means forming a relationship with a charismatic, ruthless murderer. But Kinsella is slow to give away his secrets, and time is running out for the latest kidnap victim, who is simply trying to survive.


Told between Alice’s point of view and one of the young victim’s telling her own story which is distinguished by using a different font, it is a powerful touch with some powerful words:

It’s his stare that frightens her, his eyes wide and comfortless. She resorts to the method that always works best, twisting her mouth into its biggest smile.

Arriving at the Laurels psychiatric prison for the criminally insane to start some research, she is searched and here Rhodes gives us a lighthearted explanation of the seriousness of being there.

The smaller woman ave me an apologetic look before turning my handbag upside down and sharing it vigorously.
……..’’You wouldn’t believe the stuff people try and take inside. Drugs, flick knives, you name it.”
I processed the idea while she searched my belongings. It was hard to imagine anyone bringing weapons into a building packed with psychopaths, unless they had a death wish themselves.

Then she begins a nightmare relationship with the notorious child murderer Kinsella, whose work is being copied or directed(?) by him with these murders and it seems that everyone around him is a suspect.


Somehow Rhodes manages to bring a sense of genuine evilness in Kinsella with such small pieces of conversations, I just shuddered with horror as he meets with Alice.


Each of the characters have such a depth to them, the staff of capable professionals with seemingly damage in their pasts which you get to know throughout the novel.


Of course I did my usual, ‘he’s the one, no maybe its woman, no maybe all of them!’ but the intrigue is that all of them showed something that all was not as it seems.


The draw and fascination of such a vile serial killer was totally evident in the writing, and who hasn’t been drawn into a real life news item that both fascinates, horrifies and disgusts at the same time? Rhodes shows us the need to try and understand how people can carry out such terrible deeds and the need to stop it happening.


I love the pace of the book, steady yet thrilling. As the investigation is struggling to come up with anything concrete the victims’ point of view reminds me of how little time could be left for this child. Such clever and knowing observations about people makes this book an intelligent read. I like the way comments’ are revisited so that every line written has meaning.


There is so much more to this novel than a crime thriller. This is as much about Alice’s own story as we learn about her family and relationships which all blend nicely together. I liked Alice and wanted so much for her to find a relationship that mattered.


The Foundlings Hospital museum reminds us of our history in relations to caring for orphans and this is summed up compassionately by Rhodes with her description of what Alice sees in the exhibits:

I stared at the rows of tokens, neatly labelled and dated. There were buttons, matchboxes, and pincushions, but the one that touched me most deeply was a scrap of red fabric, cut in the shape of a heart. Every mother must have dreamed that her luck would change, and one day she could return to collect her child. I felt sure the killer had stood exactly where I was standing now.

Far from being all doom and gloom Rhodes brings us back with some lighter characters and moments that stopped me from feeling all doom and gloom as I read. I love the description of the snow filled scene she describes:

So far the cottage had resisted every attempt to raise its temperature, but when I pulled back the curtains, I stopped caring. Edgemoor Woods had turned into the perfect Christmas card, the sky an empty shimmer of blue, lines of fresh snow balanced on the branches of conifer trees.

I absolutely loved this book.
Many thanks to the publisher for a paperback copy in return for my honest review.