Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review of "Pretty Baby" by Mary Kubica

Heidi and Chris Wood are an upscale thirty-something Chicago couple with a twelve-year-old daughter, Zoe, who exhibits typical tweenie angst. Chris is a successful investment banker and Heidi is a warm-hearted social worker who feels compelled to help everyone in need.

One rainy morning Heidi spots a teen girl with a baby and a suitcase at the train station, soaked and obviously homeless. Heidi can't get the girl and baby out of her mind and - after seeing them a few more times - offers assistance. Skip ahead a day or so and teenage Willow and baby Ruby are ensconced in the Woods' apartment, though Willow is clearly scared and uncomfortable.

Heidi knows it's illegal to harbor homeless underage juveniles for more than a couple of days but can't bring herself to call child protective services. So Willow and Ruby remain, much to the chagrin of Chris and Zoe. Chris, who suspects Willow may be dangerous, is especially perturbed.

The book is told from three rotating points of view: Heidi, Chris, and Willow. As the story unfolds the reader slowly learns about the history of the characters, what goes on in the Woods' apartment, and what happens afterward.

We find out that Willow was orphaned at age eight and placed in a frightful foster care sitiuation, that Heidi hoped to have lots of children but was thwarted for health reasons, and that Chris is a loving husband who's obsessed with making money.

Other characters add interest to the story including Heidi's best friend Jennifer and playboy neighbor Graham; Chris's sexy co-worker Cassidy; Willow's little sister, foster parents, and foster brothers; and more. To say much more would risk spoiling the plot.

The book is an interesting psychological thriller with some big surprise twists and some outcomes that are fairly predictable - but this shouldn't detract from the enjoyment of the story. For me the book moved too slowly and I got tired of Willow's frequent (and sloppy) pancake eating; Heidi cleaning, feeding, and rocking the baby; Chris's numerous business meetings; etc. I was impatient for things to move along. I did appreciate, however, the way the book's various narratives smoothly led to the dramatic climax and ending.

I wasn't a huge fan of Mary Kubica's previous book, "The Good Girl", which also has a rotating series of narrators. The format just isn't my favorite. Nevertheless, "Pretty Baby" is a decent mystery that I'd recommend to fans of psychological thrillers.

Rating: 3 stars

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