The Forgotten Child (A Riley Thomas Mystery Book 1) – Melissa Erin Jackson


The dead can speak. They need her to listen.

Ever since Riley Thomas, reluctant medium extraordinaire, accidentally released a malevolent spirit from a Ouija board when she was thirteen, she’s taken a hard pass on scary movies, haunted houses, and cemeteries. Twelve years later, when her best friend pressures her into spending a paranormal investigation weekend at the infamous Jordanville Ranch—former home of deceased serial killer Orin Jacobs—Riley’s still not ready to accept the fact that she can communicate with ghosts.

Shortly after their arrival at the ranch, the spirit of a little boy contacts Riley; a child who went missing—and was never found—in 1973.

In order to put the young boy’s spirit to rest, she has to come to grips with her ability. But how can she solve a mystery that happened a decade before she was born? Especially when someone who knows Orin’s secrets wants to keep the truth buried—no matter the cost.


*Warning: The backstory is really dense. There are murders, rapes and it is quite descriptive in general. There are also some sex scenes but, if you can tolerate everything else, these should be nothing.*

Riley Thomas is a normal 25-year-old girl whose life has been reduced to watching television and working, after breaking up 6 months ago with the idiot of her ex-boyfriend.

Her best friend Jade has tried several times to perform interventions, but they have not worked. So this time she uses all her best friend resources and commits Riley to a weekend of paranormal investigation at the house where a serial killer lived, made famous after appearing on a paranormal show.

Riley is obsessed with crime stories, so she should be excited about the idea. But it is impossible for her to get excited knowing that the place is said to be haunted.

Riley’s rejection of everything paranormal is far from the common fear of ghosts, as Riley is a “reluctant medium.” She discovered her spiritual ability when she was 10 years old, but it was at 13 that the madness broke out. From that day on, Riley got as far away from the paranormal world as possible and dedicated herself to pretending her ability didn’t exist.

Pretending for the weekend shouldn’t be an impossible mission, but a little ghost named Pete ruins her plans. Now Riley must stop pretending and use everything she has learned from research on television and the internet to find out what happened to Pete.

For me this book deserves 11/5 stars. End of the review.

Yes, so much so.

This book is about a serial murderer, who kidnapped girls to make “contributions to medicine”, eventually one of his “patients” managed to escape, and he was caught and convicted for the murders. However, when Riley arrives at the ranch, she realizes that there are probably still a few loose ends in this case, and that she is the only one who can solve them thanks to the information she gets from beyond.

The story is mostly told from Riley’s perspective, but some chapters are from Orin’s perspective. These are the most scary, because he truly believes he did nothing wrong and even cares about his “patients.” Since he was a child, he was always very interested in how things work, the problem is that he was also interested in knowing how human beings work, and after being rejected from medical schools and even forensics (I don’t know why they didn’t put him in a psychiatric after these interviews ?‍♀️), he found a way to conduct his research on his own. He’s a very well-constructed character, but pretty gruesome for the same reason.

Reading that description, the book doesn’t seem recommendable, but it is. To begin with, I believed every single word in the book. The story is totally realistic (which makes it a lot more terrible), even in the paranormal scenes. Also, the characters. Riley really has no idea how to resolve her new situation and uses the internet a lot to do research. Luckily for her, she has the support of Jade, whose relationship really seems like sisters. And also of Michael, an excessively handsome 30-year-old man she meets on the weekend at the ranch. Honestly, it’s worth making that dreadful visit to the ranch to meet someone like Michael ?. A “reformed idiot” in his own words, who is in charge of keeping Riley from falling apart, as well as being excessively funny, easing the tension in the worst moments in history. I loved this character, he has a million traumas from the past, but he’s looking to be a better person.

“What are you talking about?” He placed the back of his hand on her forehead. “You’re pale. Are you okay? You look like you’ve just seen a–oh. Oh! Shit. You saw a ghost.”

The synopsis of this book caught me immediately, but as after my experience with paranormal programs (they fascinate me but I stopped watching them because I couldn’t sleep afterwards ?) I understood that I am a chicken, I read some reviews to make sure it did not give too much fear. The truth is it was useless because, although the book is not scary in itself, I still had nightmares ?‍♀️.

You could say that it is divided into 3 parts. The beginning and the visit to the ranch, the investigation and then the outcome.

In the beginning, when they arrive at the Jordanville Ranch is the moment that the most chills made me feel. But, once they return home, the investigation is conducted by Riley, as she begins a relationship with Michael. For me it was perfect, because after the nerves of the first chapters and given that the things that Riley discovers are each more frightening than the last, I do not know if I could have handle reading the book it had been otherwise. The relaxed moments on their dates, or Michael’s jokes that always break the tension, made me enjoy this book despite its dark background.

The ending is simply spectacular. The book begins by putting your nerves on edge, then allows you to relax a little and then moves at a dizzying pace toward the outcome. I haven’t read many thrillers, but it’s in the end where most stories fail and this one didn’t.

Another very interesting thing in this book is how harassment reports are handled. At one point in the book, Riley is harassed by a psychopath. I can’t tell you anything else to avoid spoilers, but the important thing is that he doesn’t do anything that would allow to have evidence against him. Riley says it and even a detective mentions it: These types of cases only get followed up once it is too late. Unfortunately this appears to be the case in fiction as well as in reality, and in all countries. I am glad that this is becoming more and more visible and I hope with all my heart that things change.

I talked too much but this book really surprised me. It’s the first time in a long time that I really couldn’t stop reading. It gave me the chills, I laughed out loud and cried too.

I don’t know what else I can tell you so that you run to read this book (but really, if you are too sensitive don’t read it, despite being excellent it is quite strong).

PD: This is Melissa’s debut book. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I could have sworn it was the book of a super experienced writer.

Bye bye ?

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