#BookReview Dear Child by Romy Hausmann trans. by Jamie Bulloch @Flatironbooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Dear Child by Romy Hausmann, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch. My thanks to Claire at Flatiron Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Dear Child will be published in the U.S. on 6th October 2020 by Flatiron and is available for pre-order now. It was published in the UK by Quercus on 13th May 2020 and is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook format.

Dear Child Romy HausmannAbout the Book

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

Format: eARC (352 pages)                           Publisher (US): Flatiron Books
Publication date (US): 6th October 2020 Genre: Thriller

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My Review

Told from a number of different points of view, Dear Child is a twisty, suspenseful page-turner that it’s well nigh impossible to say much about without spoiling the experience for potential readers. It features many of the elements you expect to find in the psychological thriller genre whilst still seeming fresh and original. This is especially the case with one of the narrators whose voice combines innocence and a slightly chilling precision.

The storyline encompasses abduction, imprisonment and coercive control but the author chooses to major on the psychological impact of their experiences on those involved. For example, the strains on the relationship of husband and wife, Matthias and Karin, caused by the disappearance of their daughter Lena many years ago. It’s not just the despair they endure at not knowing what happened to her, or the false hopes that come to nothing but the effect of press intrusion and speculation.

Dear Child is one of those books where you can try to work out the final destination or just sit back and experience the literary equivalent of a mystery ride. In the end, I chose the latter and for a lot of the time I could identify with one of the characters who observes, “I try to arrange the pieces, but the meaning defeats me“. But, as with a jigsaw, there’s always a sense of satisfaction when the final piece is put in place.

In three words: Dark, intense, suspenseful

Try something similar: The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

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Romy HausmannAbout the Author

Romy Hausmann was born in East Germany in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son she has been working as a freelancer in television.

Dear Child is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart. (Photo credit: Astrid Eckert)

#BookReview Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford @AllisonandBusby

About the Book

Unassuming Yorkshireman, Arthur Skelton, is one of the most celebrated and recognisable barristers in the land. His success in the high-profile Dryden case – ‘the scandal of 1929’ – catapulted him to the front pages of the national newspapers. His services are now much in demand and, after careful consideration, he agrees to defend Mary Dutton. Dubbed ‘The Collingford Poisoner’ by the press, Mary is accused of poisoning her husband after years of abuse. Together with his trusted assistant, Skelton digs deeper and discovers that secrets and lies run deep in the Dutton family and all is not as it appears.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)                Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 17th September 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime

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My Review

Fresh from his recent courtroom success, barrister Arthur Skelton is having to get used to being in the limelight and the adoration of those who regard him as a ‘Latter Day Galahad’, riding to the rescue of damsels in distress. The next damsel in need of rescue is Mary Dutton, accused of the murder of her violent husband in a seemingly open and shut case.

Arthur sets out to construct a plausible defence for Mary, ideally by identifying others with the means, motive and opportunity to murder the victim. He’s assisted in this by his extremely efficient clerk, Edgar, who is both a fountain of knowledge and, seemingly, has connections in every solicitor’s office in the country. Later they are joined by Rose Critchlow, daughter of the solicitor representing Mary Dutton. Rose has ambitions to pursue a career in law despite it being a largely male preserve so is delighted to get involved. Drawing inspiration from the words of the Girl Guide’s Handbook, she can “think of nothing better than to be an everyday heroine whose example might be followed with advantage.” As it turns out, Rose is an extremely adept and industrious investigator, uncovering vital evidence that would otherwise have remained hidden.

I enjoyed the brief insights into Arthur’s other cases and also the glimpses of his home life with wife, Mila, and their two children. Mila is quite a character – clever, independent-minded, an advocate of equal rights and not afraid to voice her opinions. Often, Arthur finds himself marveling that she should have chosen him over so many others.

The unravelling of the intriguing mystery takes place to the accompaniment of gentle humour. For example, when Arthur and Edgar attend a meeting in a rather seedy pub in Limehouse, Arthur observes, “It was old. Dickens could have drunk here, maybe Shakespeare and Marlowe, and possibly Chaucer, but none of them would have, because they were all too choosy.” Or, as Arthur and his clerk run through Edgar’s list (numbered, of course) of other possible suspects and motives, Edgar observes, “Sapphism is a lot more common than you like to believe.” “Not in the Midlands“, replies Arthur.

There are occasional contributions (in letter form) from Arthur’s cousin, Alan, who, with his wife Norah, travels the country in a Rover Sunbeam spreading the word of God, whilst also acting as a useful gatherer of information for Arthur’s cases. There’s more gentle humour on display here. I chuckled at the descriptions of their meetings which comprise earnest sermons, the enthusiastic singing of hymns and recitals of popular songs such as ‘When Father Papered the Parlour You Couldn’t See Pa for Paste’.

I really enjoyed Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons.  It’s an entertaining historical mystery with a nice line in humour.  I very much hope there are more cases for Skelton and his colleagues to tackle in the future.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby via NetGalley.

In three words: Funny, lively, engaging

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David StaffordAbout the Author

David Stafford began his career in theatre. He’s written countless dramas, comedies and documentaries including two TV films with Alexei Sayle, Dread Poets Society with Benjamin Zephaniah, and, with his wife, Caroline, a string of radio plays and comedies including The Brothers, The Day The Planes Came and The Year They Invented Sex as well as five biographies of musicians and showbiz personalities. Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be – The Life of Lionel Bart was chosen as Radio 4 Book of the Week and made into a BBC Four TV documentary. Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons is his debut novel. (Photo credit: Publisher author page)

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