ABOUT THE BOOK:
While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is - and who she might become.
LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:
The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer is a 2016 Melville House publication.
A mystery/thriller that takes the reader on an emotional, heart wrenching journey –
Beth’s worst nightmare comes to fruition when her daughter, Caramel, is abducted. Both mother and daughter relate to the reader how their lives have changed since that fateful day, as they both sadly adjust to a new normal. For Beth, her life never fully moves forward as she continues to search for Caramel, never giving up hope, against all odds. But, for Caramel, her life has taken a more sinister turn as she finds herself in one very strange environment, one that becomes progressively worse and more dangerous as time goes by.
This book is certainly does have its moments of suspense, and a prevailing sense of dread casts a pall over the book. But is it really a mystery or a thriller? In my mind, that may be a bit of a stretch. Okay, yes, there is a crime, and the book follows the fallout of that crime, but we know who abducted Caramel, we know how they did it, and pretty much why they did it. The only mystery remaining is how all this will eventually play out.
Is it a thriller? Again, Caramel’s life does seem to hang in the balance as her situation becomes quite bleak, and what will become of her is very unclear, but her freedom doesn’t feel eminent. Again, I’m not sure this book fits neatly into that category- or any one genre for that matter.
The ‘girl’ books were reaching a peak of popularity in 2016, and so the title may have drawn some comparisons to those types of books. Unfortunately, those comparisons, in my opinion, are way, way, way off base… as usual.
But, while scrolling through my library wish list a week or so ago, I realized this book had been languishing on the list for a really long time and I’d forgotten what the book was even about. When I saw the blurbs comparing this book to all the usual ‘girl’ novels, I almost removed it from the list, but there is just something so compelling and haunting about child abductions, I changed my mind and checked it out on the spot. I definitely made the right decision.
For me this journey was a heavy hearted, melancholy trek through despair, horror, anxiety, and the infuriating injustice of robbing two wonderful people of the special mother and daughter relationship. Beth learns the hard way to prioritize, which leads to a new type of relationship with her ex-husband and his new wife and with her estranged parents. Yet, that unique connection mothers have with their children, that bond that trumps all others, often puts Beth on a very solitary path. My heart broke on her behalf, and I found myself swallowing a lump in my throat on more than one occasion.
Caramel never forgets her mother while she is away, but her story is one that is confounding to me on several levels. Carmel is such a cool kid, smart in ways no one seems to understand. She maintains her sense of self, but it is certainly a struggle. She is also quite ‘gifted’, which is a part of the story that simply ‘is’, without exploring too deeply. Her captors are aware of how special she is and used her abilities for their own benefit. I worried over Caramel, and you will too. While Beth’s loneliness jumps off the page and her narrative felt so intensely personal, Caramel’s story is the saddest of all. This little girl will steal your heart.
This book was not at all like I expected it to be. The writing is superb, drawing the reader into the story almost effortlessly and will keep you invested in the lives Beth and Caramel, despite that mix of hope and dread. If you are expecting a traditional mystery, this one doesn’t fit that bill, but it is worth every agonizing chapter and is a story you won’t soon forget.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kate Hamer's first novel 'The Girl in the Red Coat' was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into 16 different languages. Kate won the Rhys Davies short story prize and has short stories published in a number of anthologies. She's written articles and reviews for The Independent, The Sunday Mail and The New York Times. Kate grew up in rural Wales and now lives with her husband in Cardiff, UK. Her second book is 'The Doll Funeral'.