The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine
|The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A fabulous reworking of a post-war thriller by Josephine Tey, in which a runaway teenager takes on the identity of another missing boy. Tense, claustrophobic and absorbing, it's another big success for Jenny Valentine, one of our very favourite writers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: August 2010|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
|External links: Author's website|
Runaway Chap walks into a hostel off the street. He's in need of a meal and a bed for the night. As the workers question him, trying to get a history, they notice his resemblance to a poster of a boy who's been missing for two years. Chap isn't Cassiel Roadnight. Chap isn't anyone. But the temptation is there: become Cassiel. Get a family. Live in a home. Become someone. And so he takes the chance and the new identity.
Collected by Cassiel's sister Edie, he's taken to Cassiel's home to meet Cassiel's mother, a fragile woman existing on tranquilisers and cigarettes. Is it Cassiel's fault she's like this? Will she recognise Chap as a cuckoo in her nest, or will she think her son has returned home? Edie thinks Cassiel is different now - will she put it down to two years of absence, or will she realise Chap is an impostor? What about brother Frank? What will he think? Chap soon realises being unmasked is only one of his worries - this family has dark secrets of its own...
The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight is an updating of a Josephine Tey novel - I shan't say which one as even a quick google will probably throw up a spoiler - that was such a favourite of mine as a child. I read it dozens of times. Bookbag readers will also know that Jenny Valentine is a firm favourite of ours - her books are accessible but intelligent, realistic but quirky, and pack an immediate and arresting emotional punch. She has a wonderful ability to take readers right into the hearts and souls of her central characters, and reading her is always a truly vicarious experience. So I had high hopes of this one.
And I wasn't disappointed. As a thriller, it works wonderfully well. It's tense and claustrophobic and full of red herrings. Chap, faced with a crisis situation, makes a hasty decision and finds himself an observer-prisoner inside his new family. He wanted a new identity, but what he gets is fear, guilt and loneliness. And the longer he stays and the deeper he delves into his new family's secrets, the worse it gets - until, eventually, he actually finds himself in terrible danger. And as a study of family-in-crisis, it's poignant and painful, but absolutely truthful.
I don't want to say too much more in case I give it all away. Suffice it to say that Valentine has taken a post-war classic and made it anew, in her own inimitable way. Highly, highly recommended.
My thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for sending the book.
They might also enjoy From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma, a tense psychological thriller in which the exploration of grief and fragile mental health is probably more important than the unravelling of the mystery. I can see the care-babe's road trip in Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd also appealing.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.