Orchid Child by Victoria Costello is many genres in one story —a nuanced, compelling thriller with unforgettable characters. The setting is complex and intricately drawn. Ellen and her fiancé move to the United States in the 1920's, running from the horrors of the Anglo-Irish war. Their granddaughter, Kate, loses her job as a neuroscience researcher in New York after a sex scandal in 2002. Kate travels to Ireland to do a study on mental illness in an effort to save her career and she brings her nephew, Teague, with her, putting him under psychiatric care at a university in Ballymore. A dark secret about her ancestry pushes Kate to go on an odyssey to unravel her family history and to understand herself.
This is a psychological thriller that is heavily loaded yet so skillfully written that it puts readers on the edge of their seats. Kate is a well-sculpted character; she is complex and genuinely flawed, someone who struggles with self-doubt and who makes disastrous decisions. Losing her job is the crisis moment in the conflict, and the suspense grows as readers want to know what happens next to her. Her relationship with Teague is richly explored. Teague is a disturbed teenage boy who speaks to things and is plagued by delusions. Can Kate uncover the reason behind his unusual behavior? It is interesting to notice how Costello intelligently weaves elements of the setting, creating a strong link between the past and the present and incorporating intriguing cultural and spiritual elements into the writing. Orchid Child just happened to be a page-turner, a story that surpassed my expectations, thanks to the wonderful writing and the deft plotting. But it is the characters that will stay more with readers after they put this book down — they are believable and memorable!