The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Release date: 26 February 2015
Back cover blurb: Eight-year-old Carmel has always been different - sensitive, distracted, with an heartstopping tendency to go missing. Her mother Beth, newly single, worries about her daughter's strangeness, especially as she is trying to rebuild a life for the two of them on her own. When she takes Carmel for an outing to a local festival, her worst fear is realised: Carmel disappears into the crowd. Unable to accept the possibility that her daughter might be gone for good, Beth embarks on a mission to find her. Meanwhile, Carmel begins an extraordinary and terrifying journey of her own. But do the real clues to Carmel's disappearance lie in the otherworldly qualities her mother had only begun to guess.
The Girl in the Red coat is an intriguing debut novel and Kate Hamer certainly knows how to keep the reader engaged. That said, I did find that I had to read the novel in large chunks or risk losing the plot slightly.
Carmel- the eight year old girl at the centre of the story, is a wonderful character, who often seems older than her years. Carmel's mother Beth, is a notorious worrier (in Carmel's eyes) and is often telling Carmel off for going 'missing' (hiding in mazes, under tables etc).
Beth is left bereft when her daughter goes missing at a literary festival and fears the worst. Carmel has been persuaded to leave with a man who tells her he is her grandfather and that her mother has been in a terrible accident, and left him to look after her.
What follows is a mother's tale of grief, anger and hope, and a little girls tale of strange new surroundings and lies about her family and future.
I loved that the story was told from both mother and daughter's perspective as it really helps us to get inside the characters heads.
Without giving too much away, the scary thing about the Girl in the Red coat, is that it is entirely plausible. The idea that another human being, male or female becomes so fixated with the crusade that they are on, that they are no longer in touch with the real world.
At first, I thought that the novel was going down a much darker path than I had anticipated, thankfully it didn't.
I was more than happy with the ending (although disappointed that the novel had ended so abruptly) as it gives hope to families with missing children, and reiterates that not all who take children from their families do so with the intent of harming them.
Indeed some believe that they are taking them for absolutely the right reasons and that they are going to a better place where they can give them a better life than the one they are currently living.