In a rush? Scroll to the bottom for my snapshot thoughts!
Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…
While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.
The Girl in the Red Coat uses a dual-POV structure, switching every few chapters between Carmel, the little girl, and Beth, her mother, both leading up to the disappearance and after. As you can gather from this and the synopsis, you are aware of every detail of Carmel’s experience, including who has taken her and where he has taken her to. This removed the core mystery component for me, but there was somewhat of a mystery to figure out the motives behind the abduction.
I was actually surprised that I found myself enjoying Beth’s narration much more than her daughter’s, despite Carmel’s narrative being the main plot. While it was frustrating at times when the police and Beth are trying to piece together what happened when you know, it was Beth’s internal struggles that I was invested in. I honestly felt for her, felt her pain and grief and guilt and frustration. Beth also has a pre-existing anxiety disorder, and watching how that impacts/impacted her daughter was interesting. I felt like it could have gone deeper, but that would have slowed down an otherwise quick read.
With Carmel, I still flew through her chapters, but I didn’t have that connection I’d had with her mother. I think it might just be a ‘me’ thing that I don’t typically enjoy child narrators in adult books, and that hindered my enjoyment.
Another thing that wasn’t for me, was the heavy use of religion (Christianity) in the book. I’m personally not religious but can enjoy books of which religion is a part. This one just missed the mark a little bit for me, but that may not be the case for you. Just a word of warning – religion isn’t used in a wholly positive way, that being, at all.
There was also a lot of ableism in the story, which again was pretty central and important to the plot, but uncomfortable nonetheless. There’s a lot of talk of sick and disabled people clamouring to be ‘cured’ and be ‘free’, which really wasn’t what I wanted to be reading about, as someone on bed rest due to chronic pain.
I wasn’t totally comfortable with the portrayal of a Mexican character in the book, either. I felt a little uncomfortable with their characterisation and the picture they painted of Mexico. They’re not supposed to be an entirely sympathetic character, but I think it could have been handled differently.
One thing I did enjoy was the writing style. Especially in the beginning, I felt it was very strong. Hamer’s descriptions were unique and accessible, and really added something deeper than other mystery thrillers I’ve read, which favour a simpler style. I did find that the writing did get simpler towards the end of the book, perhaps because the bulk of it was taken up with Carmel’s narration. I also felt that the book struggled a little with its pacing at the end, too.
The ending itself felt anti-climatic, just one of those ‘yeah, okay, fine’ and close the book.
The plot seemed a little confused, too. There’s almost a supernatural aspect to it, which I felt wasn’t satisfyingly explained or wrapped up. Most is grounded in reality, which are the parts I liked, but there were moments that just lost me.
I realise I’ve been quite negative with this review, but I did enjoy most of my time reading! The reading experience flew over and I enjoyed the writing. I would be interested in reading more from Hamer if any more of her books pop up at the library because of this, but I’m not going to go out of my way to get my hands on more.
IF YOU LIKE:
- A fast read.
- A mystery with more flowery writing.
- Books featuring religion.
- Dual POVs.
- A non-police procedural setting.
Then this book could be for you!
IF YOU DON’T LIKE:
- ‘Miracle cures’ for disabled/sick characters.
- Narration by a child.
- Religion being used in a negative way.
- Not having a twist.
- A supernatural element to your thrillers.
- Trigger Warnings for:
- Child abduction.
Maybe think twice!
Have you read The Girl in the Red Coat or something similar? Let me know and we can chat!