Tasha has had a childhood so horrific on its surface like one no child should have to suffer. In Nowhere Child by Rachel Abbot, we meet Tasha who has been abducted by her father, David and delivered to a foster family of horrors. Rory and Donna treated Tasha as a servant; she was beaten, sent out to buy beer for Rory, forced to shoplift, and frequently was confined in a basement. There was not sexual abuse yet; perhaps she was considered too young. The sexual abuse was left for Izzy, a friend of Tasha; Izzy couldn’t handle it and committed suicide. More childhood trauma.
But Tasha knew that the sexual abuse would come soon. That was why she was forced to kidnap her stepbrother Ollie and deliver him to Rory and Donna. That was the price for her to avoid a life of prostitution. Once she kidnapped Ollie, she knew she could never go home again to stepmother Emma; her stepmother would never be able to accept the reason for the kidnapping. Unwelcome at home, fearing for her continued existence at her foster home, fearing gangsters who want to hurt her for talking to the police about their activities, fearing police prosecution for her role in kidnapping Ollie, Tasha opts for safety and concealment as she hides in various communities of the homeless population.
The homeless community is only a community as far as existing together geographically. Individuals do not trust one another; there are no acts of community support. Tasha disguises herself as a boy and becomes friends with Andy. He becomes her protector and educates her into the skills homeless people need to survive. Andy becomes her confidant, learns of her past, and discovers she is a girl, although that fact is withheld from the community at large.
Emma, Tasha’s stepmother is also seeking Tasha. She wanders into areas where she thinks Tasha might be living and shouts out her name. She is always accompanied by Ollie.
Detective tom is interested in finding Tasha but not to imprison her. He needs Tasha to act as a witness against the mob who had tried to use Tasha to kidnap Ollie. The same mob has killed Tasha’s father but Tasha was unaware of her father’s death. She probably wouldn’t have cared as once a child has been sold by a parent, the familial bonds become a lot looser and irrelevant.
And then there is the mysterious Jack. A former fiancé of Emma, a possible murderer of Tasha’s biological mother and a brother of Detective Tom, this character remains in the shadows until the very end when all is revealed. The “all” would be the spoiler surprise.
This is a fairly fast moving mystery novel but its value is in the description of life on the street and the thought provoking descriptions of elements that can cause long-lasting childhood trauma. This is a sequel to a novel that is much longer (350 pages compared to 150 pages) and develops several characters and motives from this novel more completely. I will put the earlier novel in my TBR stack.