FRACTURED is a thriller entry in the expanding local sub-genre of books that look very close to home. Set as close to home as possible, it's the story of Anna, her husband Tony and their baby son Jack.
Using the obvious device of two converging timelines, the lead up to Jack's birth is contrasted with events afterwards. The storyline builds carefully, slowly almost, seen primarily from the viewpoint of Tony.
Partially because of that viewpoint there's a sense of "blame" or judgement, pervading the story. Whilst Anna obviously struggles with the change in her life, Tony doesn't always come across as particularly empathetic or even necessarily aware of what a struggle it is. Having said that he's also struggling with why things haven't panned out according to the advertising, and his mother doesn't seem too sympathetic about his difficulties. At points throughout this story is possible for the reader to dislike just about everybody - Tony, Anna, Tony's mother. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what everyone else should be doing yet somehow nobody actually seems to ever do anything positive. Even after the worst happens and Anna and Jack go missing, the sense of disapproval and judgement remains strong.
Many of these sorts of books come across as too manipulative, too designed to engender a predictable reaction. Barker cleverly dodges a lot of that by making just about everybody in the story unsympathetic in some way. This feels like a very realistic portrayal of the loss of control - it's cleverly drawing out that idea that parenthood is not always idyllic and sometimes a little honesty wouldn't hurt.
A clever book, FRACTURED looks at a taboo subject, without slipping over into preaching or coming across as holier than thou.