The First Day of Spring is a compelling and disturbing story that takes us into the darkest thoughts we could imagine. Nancy Tucker has written an unforgettable psychological drama that stands out as a remarkable debut novel.
It is chilling to think of Chrissie, an eight-year-old girl, who opens the story with the line “I killed a little boy today.” What forcefully hits home is the lack of remorse and the clarity of thought as to what happened and how she behaved. It is incredibly unsettling to imagine a child making a conscious decision to kill another child, and that the act of murder made her feel like God and gave her a sense of excitement with a buzz in her stomach. Tick, tick, tick until she can do it again.
“‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’ “
Undoubtedly, we’re looking at a psychopath, and with the apparent lack of compassion, Nancy Tucker does a fantastic job of crafting the personality of Chrissie with her intelligent manipulative traits. She takes steps to remain close to the action, daring and unperturbed, discussing the murder with adults, the parents of the child, and police while concealing that she is the killer. Chrissie is a fascinating character, with her friends, at school, with adults and shockingly with her parents. Some minor level of empathy is possible when you consider the disdain her mother has always shown her and the physical state she characterises with lack of food, clothing and cleanliness. The interactions between the children were genuine, and the subtle ways Chrissie demonstrated her callous manipulative behaviour was superb.
Julie is twenty-eight years old and is a single parent with a young daughter, Molly. She worries about social services taking Molly away, especially when Molly broke her arm in a fall when Julie was beside her. Julie has a very nervous and uncertain outlook, fearful of being a parent and a neighbour. The reason for the apprehension and the social services monitoring of her child is unsurprising when you learn Julie is Chrissie twenty years later and after being released from Juvenile Detention. This second timeline works well for reflection, trying to establish a new life and new norm, and if you weren’t provided with the connection, you would believe these to be two very different people. My only issue with this story is the disbelief that the complete transformation of a psychopath can occur, when the tendencies from Chrissie feel part of her DNA.
The First Day of Spring is such a beautifully written book that captures the horrific mood surrounding the murder of a child. The writing conveys the scary environment where an unknown killer threatens the most vulnerable in the community and how adults and children react in this scenario. I couldn’t understand the stark difference between Chrissie and Julie’s personalities, causing me uncertainty about rating this book. I want to thank Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley for providing a free ARC in return for an honest review.