Best-selling German author Charlotte Link is back with another tense thriller, this time translated into English. Set in Scarborough, The Other Child is a crime novel that explores the impact of past sins coming to light in the present day.
This is the first of Link’s novels that I’ve read, and I was quite impressed. From the opening chapter, in which a scared young woman makes a gruesome discovery in a barn, it is clear that Link is highly skilled in creating atmosphere within her novels. This mysterious incident is then not mentioned again until well into the story, with the attention focusing instead on the vicious, and seemingly motiveless, murder of a student on her way home from babysitting one night. The police, led by D.I. Valerie Almond, are stumped until another, similar, murder is committed nearby.
The main protagonists are part of a cleverly-connected web, at the heart of which are Fiona and Chad, elderly friends who have known each other since childhood. When emails that Fiona has written to Chad about events in their past come to light, there are suddenly strong possible motives for the murder. These emails are shown to the reader, but in small sections at a time, allowing the tension to build steadily. I read it with a lengthening list of questions, always a good sign in a thriller: are the murders linked to Fiona’s evacuation from London during the 2nd World War? What lurks behind that barn door? What part do the slightly creepy paying guests at the farm play?
The other characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Colin and Jennifer Brankley, the paying guests who have been staying at the farm for years, have their own backstory, which is somewhat tenuously connected to one of the victims, and are suitably creepy at times. Chad’s daughter, Gwen, is a quiet mouse whose relationship with a smooth talking underachiever is a source of scepticism for everyone, who think that he is only with her for the farm. Leslie, Fiona’s grand-daughter, is a doctor in London but escapes to Scarborough, back to the grandmother who brought her up. This time she is running away from a failed marriage, but doesn’t find the refuge that she was searching for, as Fiona clearly has problems of her own.
Link writes compellingly and is very readable. I would have liked some more of Valerie Almond, who promised to be an interesting character but who is not given much ‘screen time’, which is a shame. Some of the links between the crimes are a little unlikely, but overall it is tightly plotted, and the ending is nicely paced. The Other Child is a good, solid thriller which, whilst not a book to keep you reading into the small hours, is perfect for a holiday.
This book was provided for review purposes by www.welovethisbook.com.