Dear Child

Flatiron: Macmillan. Oct. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781250768537. $26.99. THRILLER
DEBUT For 4,993 days and nights, Matthias Beck waits for the call revealing the whereabouts of his daughter Lena, dead or alive. A victim of a hit-and-run accident, bearing a distinctive scar, seems certain to be the young woman who disappeared 13 years ago in Munich. Heartbroken Matthias knows disappointment again when it is not his daughter—until the appearance of a young girl, the victim’s daughter, Hannah, who looks exactly like his Lena as a child. Three traumatized narrators, each a liar, tell their stories, but it is eerily intelligent Hannah who reveals their disturbing existence in an isolated windowless cabin where Papa controls them to an agonizing degree. Lena sleeps chained to a bed, using the bathroom at appointed times, and all must employ impeccable manners, for they are the perfect family now, despite the abuse. When Lena seizes her chance to escape, the trauma is not over.
VERDICT Hausmann’s English-language debut is absorbing and sinister, with a tightening web of psychological intrigue. Tiny clues are steadily inserted into this fast-paced, shivery tale with an unforeseen denouement. Inevitably likened to Emma Donoghue’s Room, also suggest Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes.
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