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Tuesday 24 April 2018

‘Odd Child Out’ by Gilly Macmillan

Published by Sphere,
5 April 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-349-41292-4(PB)

Gilly Macmillan returns after Burnt Paper Sky (also known as What She Knew) and The Perfect Child with a fabulous multi-layered thriller, Odd Child Out. We meet Inspector Jim Clemo again (he was in Gilly Macmillan’s first book but not her second), having undergone counselling, but is now back on duty and assigned to a low-priority case.

It involves two 15-year-old boys who are both friends and outcasts: Noah, white and privileged and struggling with cancer, and Abdi, a Somali refugee in Britain after his family spent many years in a refugee camp. The boys are involved in an accident at a canal that leaves Noah in a coma and Abdi too traumatised to talk.

Set against a Bristol backdrop and in the wake of an anti-immigration march, Gilly Macmillan handles themes of family relationships, friendship, love, loss and secrets with sensitivity and compassion. There are also topical themes of refugees, how life in developing countries is portrayed by the media, and terminal illness in children that all add layers to the story.

There is a mix of first-person and third-person narrative from the points of view of Noah and his family, Abdi and his family and Jim Clemo which I found engaging and effective. Gilly Macmillan never relies on stereotypes, her characters are always flawed and multi-faceted, and with her beautiful prose she slowly unravels the story.

The novel has a really interesting structure and a timely, believable plot that twists and turns at great rate.

Odd Child Out is an interesting and wonderful read and something different to many of the police procedurals on the market at the moment. I heartily recommend it.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley     

Gilly Macmillan grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She studied art history and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery in London before starting a family. Since then, she's worked as a photography teacher but now, very happily, writes full time. She lives in Bristol.         

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her third book, set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex.  Dark Waters, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in March 2018.

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