Book report: MJ Arlidge ‘Little toddler’
Tiny Toddler by British author MJ Arlidge is the seventh volume starring Inspector Helen Grace. Helen discovers a woman in the middle of a deserted road. The woman dies and Helen wants to find out who is behind this, but she does not get much time or there is already a new victim. Helen’s team starts a hunt for a couple who enjoy killing other people. Helen needs to find out what their motivation is for acting so heinous in the hope of finding them as soon as possible.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement and book cover
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: Love me not
- Title: Tiny little toddler
- Author: MJ Arlidge
- Series: Helen Grace (7)
- First print: 2017
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2018
- Translation: Harmien Robroch
- Number of pages: 348
- ISBN: 978 90 225 8743 0
When Detective Helen Grace is driving her motorcycle, she is almost run off the road by a black car. Before she can properly recover from the reckless driving, Helen discovers that a seriously injured woman is on the road. The woman tries to say something more, but dies in Helen’s arms.
The victim is Sonia Smallings, who is married to Thomas and the mother of two children. She worked for the local probation service. It is clear that Sonia was murdered, but to Helen the motive is not at all clear. Was she a chosen victim or was Sonia just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Helen and her colleagues Sanderson and Charlie know they need to find two perpetrators, but the question is where they have gone. Helen and Charlie decide to search a shopping area. When they are there and notice that the pharmacy is not open, it seems worthwhile to check if everything is okay. And just then they hear shots.
Charlie and Helen discover the lifeless body of the owner, Alan Sansom, inside the shop. Melissa Hill, who was present with her baby during the robbery, can give a perfect description of the perpetrators. It is about a white boy in his early twenties with short brown hair and six feet tall. And an eighteen-year-old girl with shoulder-length blond hair, and she’s a lot shorter than the boy.
They were both armed with a hackneyed shotgun. The girl had named the boy J. Helen knows that they need to find out who the youngsters are and what their trigger has been to suddenly start killing. That way, she hopes to be able to predict what their next step is. Unless they choose involuntary victims.
Helen sees no link between the two victims, which means she sees less of a chance to find the duo quickly. But then she receives the video of Matthew Pritchard, a psychology student, who witnessed a couple’s car theft and filmed everything. The video gives them a picture of the youngsters and soon Charlie and Helen learn that the boy is Jason Swift.
Hoping to discover things that can help them walk on, Charlie and Helen repeat everything they know so far. Seeing the pictures of the victims, Helen notices from the direction of the shot that killed Alan Sansom, that Jason Swift cannot be the shooter, but that his girlfriend is the shooter.
Anna Sansom, the wife of the shot pharmacist, recognizes the girl as Daisy, one of their foster children. They had taken care of her for a while, but Alan didn’t want her in the house because she could be unpredictable and sometimes aggressive.
Sanderson, on the road alone, discovers the two youths’ stolen car with blood on the trunk, and when she opens it she finds the body of Jason, who killed Daisy. She had been expelled from school six weeks ago, and chances are she will now return to seek revenge. Charlie, Helen, and another group of police officers go to the school hoping to find Daisy. But they will be late. Sarah Grant, the woman who asked Daisy not to come back to the school, has been shot. Daisy has since fled back.
They’re not the only ones looking for Daisy, even Emilia Garanita, a passionate Southampton Evening News journalist and rival to Helen, wants to find her. She wants to do everything she can to have a good article and she also manages to take pictures of Daisy. But then the girl realizes that she is being photographed and she suddenly stands in front of Emilia’s nose. Daisy takes Emilie with her so she can drive her car to the next destination.
Detective Mc Andrew shows Helen the camera he found on the school grounds, which contains several photos of Daisy. But not with blond hair as everyone thought, but with black hair. Helen notifies everyone and gives a clear description of Diasy. Sanderson knows from the description that she had just seen Daisy in Emilia’s company.
Daisy takes Emilia to the middle of a forest. There she asks Emilia to sit on her knees. Emilia fears for her life, but when she looks up Daisy has disappeared. The moment Helen finds Emilia, she notices that the woman is completely upset.
Sergeant Geoffrey Clarkson
Helen decides to visit Daisy’s father to find out where his daughter might be. But she finds the man dead. Clearly, Daisy killed him in a fit of fury. While everyone on her team focuses on the crime scene, Helen searches for clues in Daisy’s room. In a diary she reads about the frustrations and anger she has towards Sonia Smalling, Alan Sansom and Sarah Grant. It is full of accusations and incidents. When she searches further, Helen also finds a letter from Defense. Her application was rejected. This was yet another hard blow to Daisy. Geoffrey Clarkson signed the letter, so chances are he will be the next victim.
It takes a while before Helen can convince Geoffrey to go to HQ. But when they want to leave, they hear a strange noise and Helen is just able to push Geoffrey away before a car comes straight at her through the window. Not much later after the blow, Daisy and Helen get into a fight. But when the police colleagues arrive, Daisy manages to escape. Helen immediately runs after Daisy until she shoots Sanderson. Despite Helen’s efforts to save Sanderson, she dies before Helen’s eyes.
Helen and her team discover that Daisy’s mother had left her family for another man. And that had become the turning point for the girl. From then on she despised people who disappointed her and had a short temper. Helen therefore decides to find out where Karen Anderson lives.
When she arrives at Karen, Helen informs her and asks her to go upstairs, while she goes to inspect everything outside. She doesn’t see anything suspicious until she finds a drop of blood. She immediately walks upstairs and to save Karen Helen jumps between her and her daughter. She even challenges Daisy to shoot her, because her life is a big mess. Daisy makes a move but then commits suicide.
She sleeps very badly and in her dreams meets the many ghosts from her past. Helen is angry, suspicious, desperate and vengeful. Helen is a strong woman who will not let you down.
She is a very good friend of Helen and has a daughter, Jessica.
Her relationship with Helen is not good.
He is twenty-four years old and has a tattoo on his neck. Jason has a conviction for aggravated assault with a gun and is unemployed.
She is confident, articulate and sometimes comes across as very arrogant. Her father is in prison and her mother has been deceased for a long time.
Symbols and motifs
Helen had been arrested by her own team a year earlier for a triple murder. This had put her in prison, but in the end there was enough evidence to ensure that she was now free. But now Helen has to go back to work with the same people who didn’t believe her back then, causing her to stop trusting them. But she also doubts herself and knows she has changed.
Helen hates that they failed to pick up Daisy in the school so that she could have made sure there were no more victims.
Helen feels that she is under a curse and that something bad happens to everyone she cares about. She is therefore convinced that Sanderson would not have been dead if she had not been so angry with Sanderson.
Title statement and book cover
Little toddler is, like all other titles in this series, a reference to a children’s song. On the cover of the book you see flowers, which refer to the rest of the content of the song: ‘you pick off all the flowers and make it much too coarse’.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book consists of 348 pages, which are divided into 126 chapters. The book provides the views of Sonia Smalling, Helen Grace, Emilia Garanita, Charlie Brooks, Sergeant Sanderson, Alan Sansom, Peter Smalling, Melissa Hill, Sergeant Sean O’Neal, Matthew Pritchard, Anna Sansom, Jason Swift, Detective Mc Andrew , Margaret Swift (Jason’s mother), Daisy, Sarah Grant, Sean Dean, Sergeant Geoffrey Clarkson, Karen Anderson, written in third person.
Deceit can leave deep wounds.
Time and place
The story takes place in one day in Southampton and Portswood,
You can’t put MJ Arlidge’s books aside, you can’t help but read them in one sitting. In Little Toddler, the perpetrator is also directly the victim, who is abandoned by people she loves and constantly becomes disappointed and has setbacks. Despite the large number of characters, there is a structure in the story, so that you as a reader can always follow. Helen’s character keeps getting more complex, but also more interesting. The character of journalist Emilia Garanita also gets an interesting turn. As in his previous books, MJ Arlidge regularly puts you on the wrong track, which makes the story even more interesting.