Light Shining in the Forest, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


From the author of SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, a dark tale about a failing politician and the search for two missing children.

Includes Reading Group Notes.Norman Stokoe has just been appointed Children's Czar by the new government.

He sells his flat and moves up north to take up the position.

However before his first salary cheque has even hit his bank account, new priorities are set for the government department for which he works.

The Children's Czar network is put on hold but it is too late to reverse the decision to employ Norman.

So he is given a P.A. and a spacious office in a new business park on the banks of the Tyne.He settles down in his new leather chair behind his new desk, to wait for the green light to begin his mission.

The green light never comes. What does happen is that two children go missing. As Children's Czar, surely this case should fall within his remit, but Norman has built a career on doing nothing, on stamping pieces of paper with 'send to the relevant department'.

Now, faced with a campaigning journalist and a distraught mother, he is forced to become involved.

The search will take him to dark places and will make him ask questions about the system he is supposed to uphold.


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Review based on ARC.This was my first Torday, and (1) I will definitely read more! and (2) I'm sad he's (apparently recently) deceased, so what's out there is what's out there!So, as my first Torday, and having read a handful of other reviews on this book, I understand that this one is not "standard Torday" -- most of his novels are funny, I think.This one is not remotely funny. I don't mean to say there are no moments of humor -- those definitely exist, particularly dark humor in his analysis of civil servants in Britain, but it's not a funny book. The book is not a satire.Torday manages to work mystery, thriller, drama, a touch of romance, lite-horror, psychological thriller, and spiritual all into about 340 pages. And well. It is almost an everyman type of story, an analysis of faith and how most people these days respond to the potential for spiritual involvement in our lives. Torday has been criticized by some of his fans for delving into the spiritual, but he did SUCH a good job of evaluating the various perspectives his everyman characters can have to the potential of divine involvement that, really, it makes those reviews just sound defensive in nature. Torday definitely does not shove religion down everyone's throat and, in fact, his characters are such that there is an acknowledgement that *most* people ridicule those with strong faith. This is a truth that was well explored in Torday's novel.And yeah, now that I'm writing all this out, it sounds kind of boring. It is NOT boring. It's a well-paced psychological thriller, mystery, evaluation of society and spirituality without being preachy... Just very well done.So what's it about? Remembering that this is an everyman take, there's (and these are my descriptions -- he just named the characters :)): The Civil Servant (Norman), The Young Semi-Ambitious Lazy Investigative Journalist with Big Ideas (Willie), The Smart Cute Assistant Who's More than Meets the Eye (Pippa), and then there are a handful of equally important characters who I won't define because this book is *definitely* one of those books that is better to discover while being read.Norman has spent a life in civil servantry, working his way into more and more powerful positions, and has finally been promoted to Children's Czar in a small'ish town. However, once he's appointed, the job comes to a standstill and Norman is left with a lot of time on his hands. Lo and behold, a few months into his stalled Czarship, young aggressive and annoying Willie, trying to make a journalistic career for himself so he can get out of said small'ish town, confronts Norman with the existence of two missing children, and just WHAT, Willie wants to know, is the Czar going to do about the missing children? The Czar position is not meant to be a hands-on type of job, and Norman is initially reluctant. However, events proceed, family members are met and conversations are had, and his pushy smart little assistant Pippa gets involved... HOW are we going to save the children? When a third child goes missing, there's no stopping the newly created team as they rush time to try to find the Children before they suffer any longer.It's an interestingly paced novel... It starts off quite slow -- descriptive and scenic. It never becomes a rush from one adrenaline-packed scene to the next, but Torday writes a story and establishes characters that invest the reader in the story... And once you are invested in the story, well it's just hard to put it back down. It *moves* and you, the *reader* starts to rush... *You* must read more quickly... *you* must save the children! The physical undercurrent is palpable. There are so many elements involved (discussed above), and the characters, serving their everyman purpose, are engaging and well crafted.It's hard to review this book because it was so good, so worth an involved review, but SO the kind of book that shouldn't be ruined by reviews. Definitely recommended to open-minded thinkers, to people looking for a smarter mystery, for those who consider the possibility of "Maybes".And, despite the fact that this was an unusual-for-Torday novel, I look forward to reading more of his writing.

Review by

I received a review copy of this book.The beginning of this book looked promising, setting the stage for the disappearance of 3 children in the border between England and Scotland, near a forest which had a definitely foreboding aura. A quintessential bureaucrat, committing to rising in government service without actually doing anything, a young ambitious reporter stuck in a community newspaper and smart and caring young secretary seem to be the only three interested in solving which seems like a case of serial abductions. But the lack of interest in the newspaper and police establishment in solving the crimes just seemed beyond my bounds of belief. And when a religious component was added to the investigation, I'm afraid I became too skeptical to appreciate the story. The time sequence and the alternation between the story of the victims, the abductor and the investigative trio was awkward at times, I thought.