Kate Rhodes is back with psychologist Alice Quentin in a series that has Auntie M anticipating each new adventure. The Winter Foundling has all of the hallmarks of the previous two in the series (Crossbones Yard and A Killing of Angels): a taut, psychological plot, a compelling story, and a protagonist you can’t help but admire.
After the events of her last two cases, Alice is taking a break from London life and is keeping clear of police work by taking a leave to study treatment methods at a high-security hospital outside London for the criminally insane. She’s rented out her flat for six-months on this unlikely sabbatical at the country’s largest psychiatric prison, and will stay in nearby Charndale, renting out Ivy Cottage, which sounds grander than it turns out to be.
Her friends, especially best friend, Lola, and her brother, Will, think Alice has taken leave of her senses, but she’s convinced that writing an in-depth study of the regime at the Laurels, part of Northwoods compound, would give her plenty of material for her book on DSPD, Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder. Alice feels being in close range to serial rapists and mass murderers will clear her of the ghosts that haunt her from her previous case.
Bubbling in the news is the murders of three young girls, kidnapped and subsequently found dead in North London. The most recent was found dressed in a white gown on the steps of the Foundling Museum. Then a fourth girl is kidnapped, and when Detective Don Burns asks for Alice to help, she finds she can’t refuse with these child’s lives at stake. There are too many ties to the prolific child murderer, Louis Kinsella, locked up in Northwood for almost twenty years, and the copycat aspect of those murders means Alice must get close to the killer who hasn’t spoken willingly in years. She must develop enough of a relationship with him to get inside Kinsella’s head to discover who is acting in his stead. Alice soon discovers a thread of connection with the Museum to Louis Kinsella that ratchets up the tension.
The case heats up quickly, just as Alice is getting used to the hospital’s staff. The Centre’s director, Dr. Alexk Gorski is known for his bad temper and is less than welcoming. Dr. Judith Miller, Alice’s supervising deputy, is warmer, and so is the fitness instructor who charms Alice, Tom Jensen. Chris Steadman is the IT chap, and Art Therapist Pru Fielding, with her disfiguring facial hemangioma, uses her blonde curls to hide her disfigurement. Garfield Ellis is the male nurse who manages Kinsella on a daily basis and who brings the killer to his meetings with Alice.
As she settles into her new cottage and her new assignment, Alice becomes more and more determined to save the newest kidnapped child, Ella. And then another child is kidnapped before Ella’s body is found, and the stakes are raised with an urgency that Alice must use to provoke Kinsella.
Getting inside the mind of a serial killer who feels he is smarter than she is, and who uses Alice’s own insecurities against her means her visits with Kinsella are upsetting and often demeaning as he parses out information Det. Burns can use. Alice follows her own leads, too, even as she senses someone outside her cottage, and there are incidents of vandalism.
It will all heat up to a smashing climax readers will find terrifying in this atmospheric read. Another compelling entry from Rhodes, highly recommended.