A dark and disturbing tale. Simultaneously creepy and compelling.

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann is a tense and disturbing psychological thriller that can be difficult to read at times. Not everyone in Oundle Crime chose to read it, but those who did said it wasn’t for the faint-hearted.

The plot echoes some true-life crimes that have been reported in recent years. The story starts explosively, with a woman being hospitalised after a hit-and-run accident. Once stabilised she tells the police that she’s Lena, a girl who had been kidnapped 14 years ago and never heard of since. She has, apparently, escaped her captor, along with a 12-year-old girl called Hannah.

Lena had originally gone missing after leaving a party in the early hours of the morning. Despite the subsequent police inquiry and her father Matthias’s desperate attempts to keep media interest alive (and to redeem his daughter’s tarnished reputation) the case had gone cold. The woman in hospital fits Lena’s description, even down to the distinctive scar on her forehead.

Lena explains that she was abducted and imprisoned in an isolated cabin in the woods somewhere in Germany, near to the Czech border. The man who took her not only brutalised her to make her toe-the-line, but forced her to live as his wife and mother to his two children.

To begin with everyone believes the young woman is Lena, but then it turns out she isn’t. The story is told by three characters: Lena/the young woman and kidnap victim; Hannah the 12-year-old girl; and Matthias, Lena’s father. It is these voices which explain what happened, but as the chapters unfold it becomes almost impossible to discern what is the truth.

The Munich police are also involved, of course, but they aren’t central to the story and this isn’t a police procedural. It’s a tense and difficult story with a very complicated plot. While Oxo found it confusing but clever, Feebs thought some of the plot twists were a bit overdone. And Freyja thought it was quite good, even though the subject was so difficult. All of them found it creepy and compelling.

The highest accolade was a ‘cautious 4-Stars’ from Freyja. We suspect this could be classified as a ‘Marmite’ book – something you either like or hate. If psychological suspense is your thing, this is a novel to look out for.
Review by: Oundle Crime

P.S. Just to let you know, if you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.