“Have you seen Leila?”
Published in 2020, Taken by Lisa Stone follows mother of eight-year-old Leila, Kelsey, who is an a alcoholic, a drug addict, and a prostitute. Leila has seen and heard things that no child should ever have to. And when she goes missing, her mother is too high to even realise that she’s not home. Leila often stays out after dark to avoid going home, but what Leila didn’t know was that someone had been watching her. When she disappears without a trace, the police start a nationwide search, but it’s as if Leila has vanished into thin air. Who kidnapped her? What do they want? Will she return home safely or is she lost forever?
I only recently learnt that Lisa Stone also writes under the pseudonym Cathy Glass, and I love that she has chosen to write about her experience as a foster carer from two very different standpoints – as memoirs but also through fictional thrillers.
You can really tell that Stone has knowledge of the care system, from the children who are put through it but also of the troubled parents at the top of the chain. Taken doesn’t make you sympathise with Leila’s alcoholic, drug addict, prostitute mother Kelsey, but at the same time, it does highlight how some people find themselves in such an endless circle of destruction which does make it easier for you to engage with the story on a more personal level.
Told from multiple points of view, I love how you get to see Kelsey’s situation from so many different angles, and Lisa does a fantastic job of highlighting her struggles to show how it sometimes only takes a small act of kindness to be able to save somebody from drowning.
And then there are the twists! I definitely wasn’t expecting those! This is such a page-turning book and I really couldn’t piece this one together, so I thoroughly enjoyed the unpredictable journey of not knowing how this story would end.
I did have one small issue which was that I didn’t find Leila’s dialogue very believable for an eight-year-old, so I did struggle to sympathise with her at times, preventing me from engaging more emotionally. But other than that, I think this is an exceptionally written thriller and I look forward to reading more by her.