The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes is as disturbing as it is dark. Rhodes does a masterful job of peeling back the layers of mystery and past evil as she unveils the happenings in an abandoned orphanage and the fate of the children left in its care. A darkness she ties deftly to the missing children that are now left to die, abandoned and beaten in the cold of winter.
Scarred and troubled, Psychologist Alice Quentin has vowed to no longer involve herself in police work. But when small girls begin to disappear and one of them is discovered, dressed in a small cotton gown on the steps of the Foundling museum. She knows she must once again join forces with the police to hunt this killer down.
“..Can you fetch that for me, love?’ the man asks.
Over his shoulder, Ella sees her granddad’s car arriving, then the man’s arm catches her waist, his hand stifling her mouth. She’s too shocked to scream as he bundles her into the van. The door slams shut and there’s a scratching sound behind her. When she spins round, a ghost is hovering in the shadows. A girl in a white dress, her hair an ugly nest of rat’s tails. She is bone-thin, knees pressed against her chest, her body tightly folded. Her dead-eyed stare is terrifying. Suddenly Ella’s yelling for help, fists battering the door. Through the van’s smoky window she sees her granddad rushing up the school steps…”
Ella becomes the fourth girl to go missing in North London. To research the killer’s actions, Alice must confront Louis Kinsella, Britain’s most vicious child killer. Kinsella has been locked away for over ten years at Northwood hospital, but it is obvious to Alice and the Police, that the killings are connected to Kinsella. Alice must interview Kinsella but keep herself away from the mind games the killer plays. There is still a missing girl lost and time is passing them all by. But Alice is tougher than her small five foot stature would make her appear to be.
“…The killer understands that taking a child’s life is sacred. Killing a child is not like killing an adult. No matter how much pain rains down on them, they never expect to die. The last expression on a child’s face is always disbelief…”
Kinsella teases and releases small insights into the killer. But Alice comes to believe that Kinsella knows much more than he is letting on.
“…I heard his footsteps, then a quick indrawn of breath and he was on his mobile, calling for backup. The container explained why Sarah and Amita’s skin had been grimed with rust. Flakes of orange metal were peeling from the walls, and I wondered how the girls had coped. Claustrophobia and terror would have overwhelmed me in minutes. I stared into the bleak interior and tried to imagine Ella cowering there. Then my eyes fell on a piece of cloth. It was almost unrecognizable; the cotton must have been white originally, but now it was pockmarked by dark brown stains. A foundling dress lay abandoned on the container’s floor…”
The Winter Foundling is a disturbing and horrifying crime thriller that casts a light on the terrible conditions that many orphans and deserted children found themselves in. Abused and abandoned. The Foundlings, as they were known, often were placed in worse care than had they been left to fend for themselves on the streets. The Killer, in his fashion, seeks to uncover this as he takes the girls and does to them what had been done to the Foundlings and then leaves them dressed as the Foundlings had been. A terrible and horrifying proposition.
Rhodes does a masterful work of keeping the novel moving and not letting it mire in the darkness of its subject matter. From this she crafts a tense forensic and psychological thriller that will keep the heart pounding and the pages turning.
A terrific read!