With Child

Each Tuesday during this spring’s Twenty Weeks of Buzz, I’ll be posting about a different one of my twenty books, with remarks, reflections, and snippets of information about the writing process. With Child was the third Kate Martinelli novel, published in 1996, and was short listed for the Orange Prize.

Writing about children under threat is tricky for a crime writer. On the one hand, no one wants to show a prurient interest in endangered innocence; on the other, a serious mystery novel addresses serious problems, and in the real world, children are thrust into terrible danger every day.

There is also the truth that even a young and protected child is capable of startling ingenuity and grit. Not to write about kids under threat is to miss out on exploring the depths of the young mind and soul.

The younger generation forms the center of this novel: a girl, bright and responsible, loved by her mother, respected by her to-be stepfather, surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals; a boy abandoned by his family, scraping by on his wits through a terrible and lonely world; a couple, whose future was shattered and whose thoughts of pregnancy now appear to be out of reach. And while these people move around each other, while they focus on their concerns and their choices, around them in the darkness moves true evil.

The book is also about friendship, how it is shaped, how it shapes us. As soon as young Jules comes into her life, Kate Martinelli finds herself moving into a new community: Jules, her friend Dio, Kate’s partner Al, Al’s new love, Jani. And when Kate’s preoccupation with this younger generation leads her to injury, she discovers too that she is a part of a wider community of friends, supportive in ways she has not suspected.

This is a process all parents go through when they have a child, discovering unexpected links, forging new ties, accepting new dependencies.

Children are the backbone of a community. Or of a novel.


  1. Chris on January 26, 2010 at 4:27 am

    This was my first of Laurie’s books, so I was reading the Martinellis out-of-order; it didn’t matter – I was drawn in and sought out the other books, which in 1998 was not too many, and left me ‘champing at the bit’ for more. Suffice is to say, With Child is one that I have read three times, now, I think, and have bought copies for others as an introduction. I think of this as a classic in it’s own right – how happy am I that my chain bookstore had it mis-filed the day I happened to be browsing!

    Thanks again, Laurie, for this series – I know we’re all into the Russells just now, but Kate’s fans are still lurking!


  2. Sanne on January 26, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Since I like the Martinelli books so much more than the Russel books, I was wondering when -if ever- there will be a new one. Pleeeease!?

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