The Boy in the Barn is entirely engrossing, although the content, which includes abuse and torture, may be difficult to digest. Stone’s scene-setting finesse and emotional acuity are impressive, and despite a heavy emphasis on violence, she delivers a skillful story powered by crisp dialogue and narrative momentum, using flashbacks to give her characters depth—and provide readers with welcome relief from the intensity of her plot, although at times the characters memories prove wrenching, too.
The joy of this mystery is embedded in its characters, specifically Sophie, a cautious but brave protagonist who will enrapture readers. The fight for good over evil and chaos rings throughout, and readers will cheer for Sophie and Luke’s love to win in the end. The character of Gideon, a most heinous antagonist, is compelling but lacks intricacy. Fans of mystery novels will find familiar plot points, but the narrative’s charm lies in the nuance of Stone’s people’s complex emotions, which make this combination of mystery and romance shine.
Takeaway: Returning to her childhood home reveals a sinister plot against the heroine’s life in this compelling mystery tinged with romance.
Great for fans of: Willow Rose’s Don’t Lie to Me, Shanora Williams’s The Perfect Ruin.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A