Books

Book review: The Girl in the Red Coat

At some point I was asked by a relative of P’s if there were any books I might like for Christmas. Thing is, by this point I knew my family and possibly some friends would have looked at my Amazon wishlist. I had also given off-list suggestions to my family because they were concerned about people getting me multiple copies of the same book. So by this point, I was out of ideas. I picked one of my Amazon recommendations at random.

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The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

It occurs to me that I’m very lucky that so many people give me books. How did I end up with some many brilliant friends? Anyway, P’s relative got me the book, probably knowing exactly as much about it as I did: The title. Incidentally, I think that having now read it, I’ve caught up with books I was given for Christmas. I think the last time this had happened before Summer I was probably about 15. I consider it a bit of the triumph. Now, on with the review.

This is a story about a single mum living with her eight year old girl after a divorce and the girl goes missing. It follows both Beth, the mother searching for her missing daughter and eventually half-heartedly trying to live her life without her, and Carmel, the girl who goes missing, abducted by a strange man who pretended to be her grandfather at a comedy festival.

I’m not sure when I last read this kind of modern crime drama, so it’s hard to compare it to similar work. It would just be a crime thriller too, but or the inclusion of strong religious themes. The man who kidnaps Carmel is a devout Christian, an itinerant preacher who believes in faith healing. That added an interesting element – it’s always enjoyable when books get a bit weird like that – but as far as I’m concerned it didn’t quite come together.

Coming of age is a strong theme, as are fairly tales. There’s an obvious parallel between Carmel and Little Red Riding Hood, even beyond just the coat. I think the religious cult had the potential to make the book really satisfying but in the end I think it was a bit confused. I also found the writing style to be a bit annoying, with character’s conversation especially stilted, although this improved a bit towards the final chapters.

It’s a quick read and an interesting enough diversion and if you like crime thrillers that avoid gratuitous violence then you’ll probably enjoy it. I guess it’s suitable for young adults too. I’m just not convinced it quite deserves the amazing reviews it apparently got but maybe that’s because I don’t read much in this genre.

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