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Saturday 16 May 2020

‘Dear Child’ by Romy Hausmann

Translated by Jamie Bulloch
Published by Quercus,
14 May 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78747-373-7 (HB)

A young woman is abducted, trapped in a small cabin, and forced to act as mother to two children and housewife to her abductor. He gives her a new name, and a strict set of rules about how to behave and how to conduct her life. She cooks, cleans, home-schools the children and does exactly as he tells her, at risk of violent punishment if she disobeys. Then one day an opportunity presents itself, and she escapes, taking the children with her.

But her ordeal isn’t over – in fact it’s just beginning. She is run over by a car and badly injured; then when she leaves hospital she is tormented, partly by memories, partly by journalists and partly by incidents which suggest that someone, somewhere, still means her harm. The only way forward is to unravel what has happened to her – to find the identity not only of her captor, but also of Lena, the woman whose name she was given and who she replaced in the cabin.

Dear Child is an unusual thriller, in that it picks up the threads of a mystery when it seems to be at least half over. Lena has been missing for many years; her father Matthias tells part of the story, revealing the exquisite pain of the kind of loss that has no end and no closure. His life has collapsed; his business is failing, there is distance between him and his wife and his only motivation is to find out what happened to Lena.

Thirteen-year-old Hannah, the elder of the two children from the cabin, relates another aspect of the mystery. Hers is the strongest character: obedient, precise, almost quaint in her adherence to her ‘father’s rules. She has never known any life other than the cabin and tries with limited success to apply its rigorous conditions to what she encounters outside.

Jasmin, the freed abductee, is damaged and distressed, haunted by half-memories, determined to get to the truth, as indeed is Matthias.

Beautifully paced and meticulously translated from the original German, this is a novel to be lingered over, its quality appreciated. It is profoundly disturbing in places and raises a smile in others. This is a high-concept psychological novel, the kind that makes you wonder why books which are given the genre label are regarded as less worthwhile than literary fiction,  
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR 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 TV. Dear Child is her thriller debut. Romy Hausmann lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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