The Replacement by Melanie Golding – Book review

Do you like your thrillers interwoven with some folklore? Then you’re going to love The Replacement by Melanie Golding. This book is so good at blending the line between reality and myth, so you’re questioning if characters are deluded or if we’re witnessing something a little special. And that’s what gives The Replacement its charm.

Opening sentence: Leonie presses her palm to the outside of the cold window.

What is a Selkie?

The Replacement is set in the modern day, primarily in Cleethorpes and Northern England, but one of our lead characters, Constance, claims to be a Roane, or Selkie. From Scottish folklore, a Selkie is a seal woman who needs her seal-fur coat to be able to go back into the sea and, in Constance’s case, return to her Scottish island home.

We’re a community. Like a clan. We have our own island.

So how did Constance lose her coat? Well… she met a man called Gregor who definitely isn’t all he first seems. Gregor and Constance have a young daughter, Leonie but she has never left the small flat she was born in as her birth wasn’t declared and due to Constance’s claim to be not quite human, Gregor keeps them under close watch.

Different types of motherhood

He befriends a woman who lives in the block of flats opposite, Ruby. He trusts Ruby to help Constance look after Leonie, so they all soon become good friends and Ruby develops a maternal bond with Leonie. She provides the presence that Constance finds difficult, as she yearns to be somewhere else.

Ruby soon realises things are a little strange and events cumulate in Ruby seemingly kidnapping Leonie on a cold winter’s night… all with Constance’s blessing.

The police are soon on the case and DS Joanna Harper is our lead detective. The thing is, as the clues reveal themselves, Joanna realises that she has a very close connection to the main suspect, Ruby…

I enjoyed how within the fast-paced thriller plot, the idea of motherhood is explored through the three women in this story too. From reluctance to estrangement, longing and protectiveness, they all have a unique approach that really shapes who they are as characters.

A thriller with heart

Along with the cracking main plot, I really wasn’t expecting the second storyline around Gregor and that really added to the excitement too!

Little Darlings was the first book I read by Melanie Golding, which also wove myths into its narrative – changelings that time – and the emotive and atmospheric tone that I loved there is also present here. The Replacement is a little more in thriller territory, with a high octane finish that meant I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

On another note – DS Joanna Harper is the second female gay detective I’ve encountered recently (the other is DS Harbinder Kaur in The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths) and it’s great to read from the perspective of lead detectives that breaks the much-used conventions in fiction.

I really like Melanie Golding’s style of blending myths into modern settings, so will be on the lookout for her next novel!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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