Book Review: Storm Child by Michael Robotham

When a damaged young woman investigates a dark crime, she illuminates the mysteries of her past.

Michael Robotham builds his worlds from details. A web of wrinkles around a woman’s mouth that looks like cracks in fine bone China. Rusted metal flaking off in the hands of the protagonist as he descends a ladder. Sunglasses purchased from a chemist that make the wearer look like a blowfly. He conjures people and places that are vivid and vibrating with life and truth.

Storm Child is a thriller that follows our two heroes as they brave danger to untangle a sinister crime with deep, gnarled roots, but it is also a beautiful and tenderly observed portrait of two people who are damaged in different ways and have come together to help each other.  

Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac, who both have tragic pasts, are the stars. Storm Child is the fourth book in their series, but, like all of Robotham’s serialised stories, it stands alone.

Buy Storm Child by Michael Robotham at QBD Books.

The novel opens on Cleethorpes Beach, England, where Cyrus and Evie’s day is derailed by two events. While Evie goes to have her fortune read, bodies begin to wash ashore. A boat carrying asylum seekers has sunk. Cyrus leaps into action. His instinct is to help. After the chaos, he finds Evie in a catatonic state. Something has triggered a deeply buried trauma.

For readers who have been following the series, Storm Child is the book that reveals Evie’s backstory. Her personal history is slowly uncovered as Evie and Cyrus delve further into the murky mystery of the boat.

Evie is conveyed to hospital, where she speaks with the sole survivor. A beautiful lawyer presents evidence the boat was deliberately rammed. There are rumours of a shadowy people smuggler known only as The Ferryman. He presents a chilling spectre, and the investigation goes from there.  

In Cyrus and Evie, Robotham has created a fascinating duo. She’s young, prickly, naïve at times, but also deeply wise. Cyrus is covered in tattoos that give him “a cage fighter vibe” but he’s kind and loyal to his core. He watches over Evie, who is also protective of him. She can tell when someone is lying which would be an asset in crime fighting, were she not so damaged that her dubious power is largely neutralised.

Robotham celebrates 20 years as a bestselling author this year. Before he was a novelist, he was a journalist, then a ghost writer, and it shows in his forensic attention to detail, and his skill in creating characters who feel full, defined and human. His heroes have flaws. His villains have histories that give context to their cruelty.

Grab your copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly August 2024 edition for your exclusive book extract. Or subscribe to The Australian Woman’s Weekly now.

Storm Child is a fast-paced mystery, with twists and violence and near-misses, but there’s a richness to the storytelling. Sometimes, as a reader, you can see the bones of a story. The plot points stick out like elbows and knees. Narrative beats thump like a tell-tale heart. This can be particularly true of genre fiction, and while Storm Child gives you everything you want from a great crime read, it is so much more than that. Robotham has earned praise from storytelling giant Stephen King and it’s easy to see why.

He is a merciless creator, too. Robotham is unafraid to kill off seemingly important characters. Nobody is safe, so you never know what’s coming. Despite his stories being intricate and water-tight, he famously doesn’t plot his books before he writes them, preferring to follow the story as it unfolds. He likes to be surprised, so the reader is surprised, and he employs his method to dazzling effect.

Buy Storm Child here and read our author interview with Michael Robotham.

Related stories