16 September 2012

Review: THE OTHER CHILD, Charlotte Link

  • first published in German 2009
  • English translation by Stefan Tobler 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-2338-5
  • 410 pages
  • Source: I borrowed it
Synopsis (Amazon)

In the northern seaside town of Scarborough, a student is found cruelly murdered. For months, the investigators are in the dark, until they are faced with a copy-cat crime. The investigation continues apace, yet they are still struggling to establish a connection between the two victims.

Ambitious detective Valerie Almond clings to the all too obvious: a rift within the family of the second victim. But there is far more to the case than first appears and Valerie is led towards a dark secret, inextricably linked to the evacuation of children to Scarborough during World War II.

Horrified at her last-minute discovery, Valerie realises that she may be too late for action...

My Take

THE OTHER CHILD is written in 3 time frames.
Chronologically they are
the evacuation of children from London to Yorkshire in 1940 because of the bombing, and the subsequent six or so years;
an event described in the first chapter, taking place in 1970;
the murder of a 17 year old babysitter on her way home in the early hours in mid 2008.

There is quite a cast of characters, too many I thought, loosely connected to a farm and a a school. In the style of modern British crime fiction the reader could reasonably expect the threads extending from the time frames to converge somehow. And they do, in a fashion but some of them don't.

The synopsis (above) makes you think this is going to be a police procedural with the detective playing a central role, but that isn't how this novel works. The police appear to have few resources at their disposal and to be always playing catch-up. The author plays around with p.o.v. putting the reader in the position of knowing almost more than any other person.

In my research I discovered that although writing in German, Charlotte Link has set many of her novels, a number of them saga-like, in Yorkshire or other British locations. As far as I can tell, THE OTHER CHILD, is her first venture into crime fiction, and from a crime-fiction lover's point of view, it is in need of a lot of editing and honing. For my taste there was altogether too much descriptive detail, but then I thought that maybe it illustrates the differences between what I expect and what a German reader expects. Towards the end I found myself skimming, trying to get to the resolution of the murder mystery.

However the final solution really comes out of left field and there are few hints in the earlier text apart from the worryings of one of the other characters.

I think perhaps I should have enjoyed THE OTHER CHILD more than I did. It combines historical with crime fiction and usually I enjoy that. The first chapter worried me, as I thought it would have significance, but it was a long time coming. The overall length of the book was vexing too.

My rating: 4.1

Other reviews to check


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this one more than you did. I usually like mysteries with an historical thread too, and the mix of past and present can be effective.

Sarah said...

I thought the plot was a bit daft but the writer very effectively portrayed the landscape of the area.


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