The book is written in such a way that you truly feel that you are following the developments of the investigation, only occasionally jarred out of this by a retrospective comment. You feel both the excitement and frustrations of the team at critical points in the investigation. It is also the only book on the topic in which I have found significant information on the case that I was previously unaware of, such as the descriptions of a man carrying a child away from the hotel by an Irish family. Amaral also addresses, indirectly, some of the questions and accusations raised in Danny Collin’s book Vanished: The Truth about the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (review here).
One major downside to the book is the formatting and occasional use of strange sentence structures seen in the English translation. However, it is quite possible that this is due to the book being translated and copied onto the website, rather than errors in the original copy, but it is something to be aware of. There is also a factual inaccuracy in an early chapter where Amaral talks about the possibility of Madeleine being drugged by Calpol. In fact Calpol itself does not contain an anti-histamine as alleged in the book, and so does not have a sedating effect on children, which would explain the described confusion and denial by Kate McCann that Calpol could have been used to sedate the children. A form of Calpol called Calpol Night, which is not as frequently used in the UK as regular Calpol, does contain an anti-histamine so could make a child drowsy, through it would not truly sedate them. It is unknown if this inaccuracy, which is misleading and presented badly in the book, is due to a true error on Amaral’s part, a translating issue, or an attempt to deceive.
Amaral’s book is full of anti-British statements, not surprising considering that this was suggested to be the reason he was removed from the McCann investigation in the first place. The anti-British statements come in two forms, those directed at the police and politicians of the UK and those directed at English culture in general. The former are hard to verify, and revolve around the lack of information and cooperation given to Portuguese investigators, the latter, are quite offensive to me as a Brit, suggesting that British parent’s regularly drug their children and prefer to off-load them on others rather than looking after them themselves. These offensive statements seem to have evolved through both cultural differences and misinformation, although they perhaps do apply to the situation in question, they are certainly not true representations of British parenting and Amaral should not have generalised in this way. I have to admit these statements where quite off putting for me as a reader, and distracted me from the point of the book, I fear this could be particularly distorting and distracting for those who are unaware of British culture, and could misinform their views of the case.
Overall, a detailed and compelling account of the investigation into this tragedy. All hypotheses’ are covered, according to the importance given to them by the original investigation, and evidence is explained clearly and linked to each hypothesis. I was surprised at the number of times that Amaral acknowledged the shortcomings of the investigation, almost in a apologetic way, and although there is a clear prejudice developing near the end against the McCann’s, the book is definitely less bias than the other two accounts I have read, and the accusations are justified and backed up, although sometimes minimally, by evidence.
It should be noted that this review is based on an English translation by Anna Andress and not the bound, published version of the book.