The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Helena has a good life. A loving husband. Two wonderful daughters. And a secret. She was born in the marsh, the daughter of a kidnapped girl and her brutal kidnapper. She grew up in isolation, idolising her father. Until the day it ended.

Her father is in prison. Her mother is dead. And Helena is getting on with her life. Nobody knows her secret past – but they are about to find out. Because her father has escaped from jail. And he’s heading her way.

I’ve been seeing some buzz about this book for a while now. Netgalley has been shoving it under my nose for a good few months, so I was a little surprised when I discovered that it still hadn’t been released. But Little, Brown were good enough to let me have an e-copy to take a look at, so needless to say, my curiosity got the better of me.

What impressed me most about this one is how it isn’t aping the current tropes of modern popular crime fiction. For example, the narrator in question doesn’t seem to be unreliable and there isn’t any issues about whether or not her boyfriend/husband wants to kill her. Which makes a change. In fact, in the days of twist-laden, or, more usually, “twist”-laden thrillers, this is a breath of fresh air.

You see, the plot is pretty straightforward without any major surprises in it. Which you might think is a bad thing but what lifts this book is the quality of the writing. Alternating between Helena’s life in captivity and the present-day hunt for her father, this is never less than a mesmerising read.

Helena is a beautifully constructed character, her behaviour in extreme circumstances (both past and present) never feels anything less than utterly real and convincing. The story is basically all about her and I basically found myself walking around with my Kindle – I found it literally unputdownable.

While some of my readers, the more classic-mystery minded of you, might find the lack of surprise in the plot disappointing. I’d still recommend this book and suggest that you give it a try. A very impressive piece of work and Highly Recommended.

The Marsh King’s Daughter is out as an ebook on 13th June and in hardback on 29th June, from Little, Brown books.


  1. I hear ya about the endless stream of unreliable narrators, murderous partners and surprise ‘twists’… Relieved to hear that this is more about good writing and characters.


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