Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern
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.