Six Minutes
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Six Minutes

Petronella McGovern

How can a child disappear from under the care of four playgroup mums?

One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup. Six minutes later, Bella is gone. Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear.

Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge room? What happened in those six minutes and where is Bella? The clock is ticking…

This gripping novel will keep you guessing to the very last twist.    


I picked this up because the name ‘Petronella McGovern’ is absolutely far too delightful to avoid, and kept reading because I was hooked. Three-year-old Bella – days shy of her fourth birthday – is at her playgroup, being minded by four mothers while her own ducks out to buy biscuits, when she vanishes. How could she have gone missing when four other mothers were there looking out for her? And where is she now?

While this is, of course, the frantic, terrifying question, more curiosities snake through the book’s pages: why was Bella’s mother, Lexie, so loathe to leave her in the first place? What was the shared history of Lexie and her husband Marty that they were so willing to run to a small Canberran town to avoid? And when everybody connected to them has something to hide, then who can be trusted? The enjoyable answer to that last question is, of course, ‘nobody’.

McGovern’s debut novel is a suspenseful suburban thriller that steals your time and won’t give it back. Tapping into any parent or guardian’s primal fear – that the second you turn away from your child, they’ll disappear – Six Minutes takes that anxiety and pours it into the pages. As days pass and Bella still hasn’t been found, we follow Lexie’s disintegration, Marty’s anguish, and the unhinged actions of too many people around them until your suspicions lie on almost everybody in town. This is a nailbiter that should absolutely not be gifted to any new parents.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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