Book Review – Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath

Published: 25th January 2018
Started reading: March 1
Finished reading: March 9
Trigger warnings: Psychological abuse, animal cruelty


Dr Caitlin Lupo is a highly regarded researcher into the behaviour and psychology of troubled young children, and happily married to Tom. Together, they have a daughter called Freya.

But then comes a knock on the door from the police in the middle of the night, and they bring a young girl whose mother has just died. This girl turns about to Tom’s daughter. A daughter Caitlin never knew he had.

As Ruby Winter begins to live with the family, a number of incidents take place that lead Caitlin to suspect Ruby is a child psychopath. But Tom is protecting her, at the cost of his marriage as Caitlin’s own state of mind is called into question and her life begins to unravel…


This is a book that puts the ‘psychological’ into psychological thriller! It is a deep and compelling read with a complex, multi-faceted plot and fascinating characters with elaborate motives. Although some aspects were perhaps a little far-fetched, I was totally taken in by all of these things, as well as the range of thought-provoking issues it presents.

The first chapter sets up the book perfectly. A major revelation provides the story with an intriguing premise, and from there it gradually builds in tension as events become more disturbing and the stakes get higher. To emphasise this, the pace grows noticeably quicker as the plot begins to unravel.

I thought Caitlin was a captivating protagonist. There are several occasions where she is ruthless and calculated, and she unquestionably has her flaws, but at the same time I found I quite liked her and sympathised with her. She was also unpredictable and at times vulnerable, making her one of the most interesting main characters I have read for some time in a thriller.

The book is written in the first-person present tense, and that enabled Caitlin’s many nuances to be captured brilliantly. I really enjoyed reading from her point of view – it was if I could feel or sense her mind ticking over as my eyes hovered over each word, and there is a good mix of formal, descriptive writing, and a more sardonic tone that added more depth to her character. The similes and metaphors were a highlight!

Mental health is one of the key overriding themes of this book. The author puts forward some very challenging questions, both through Caitlin’s complex personality, and her line of work. There are some passages that really delve into the subject of human psychology, which definitely make the reader stop and think.

I thought some of this was not very believable regarding the actions of some of the characters, especially in the case of Joshua, one of the children Caitlin works with at her research institute. However, it did make for a riveting plot and I enjoyed finding out where the story would go next. There were a lot of themes and a number of supporting characters, so there were many avenues in which to go down.

Overall, this was a highly complex and enthralling book that moves in all kinds of directions, some unexpected. Some of the plot may seem contrived, but as a thriller that gathers urgency and pace, it certainly does the job. Well-written and with characters brimming with intrigue and suspicion, I really liked it.

The Author

Born in Essex, Mel McGrath was a writer of non-fiction before turning her hand to crime novels, publishing an Arctic based trilogy involving an Inuit detective. Give Me The Child is her first standalone thriller, and she has recently published her second, The Guilty Party.

Also a book reviewer for several UK newspapers, McGrath has taught creative writing at universities. She currently divides her time between London and the Kent coast.


A thriller that begins with a revelation and slowly accelerates into an absorbing read with a multitude of themes explored.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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