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"Dear Child" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

A woman disappears after a party in Munich—23-year-old Lena hasn’t been heard from in 14 years. Her grief-stricken parents continue to hope for a miracle.

Suddenly it appears one has happened; a woman under cover of darkness escapes from an isolated cabin where she’s been held hostage and forced to have children with her aggressor. The kids, Jonathan, age 11, and his sister Hannah, 13, have never experienced a normal life, or realize the way they've been raised is far from the norm.

When an opportunity for freedom finally occurs, Hannah leaves with the woman, only to witness a living nightmare when the woman is hit by a car and is badly injured.

“Dear Child” is a potboiler by Romy Hausmann, a German author from Stuttgart who carves out a name for herself with this intense novel that kept me up late flipping pages, totally possessed.

The author had me at the onset as Hannah accompanies the badly injured woman in an ambulance to the hospital, where the child is cared for and gently questioned. The condition of the accident victim remains precarious. She remains unconscious when the police contact her parents, Matthias and Karin, to break the news that they think Lena has been found. Naturally her parents are hell bent on seeing her and rush to the hospital.

Hausmann deftly juggles sections narrated by Hannah, Lena, Matthias and Jasmine, a character that provides a shocker I didn’t seen coming. As the story moves back and forth in time, readers experience the horrors Lena lived through after she was kidnapped, and walk through the perils she faces afterwards—her life once again in danger, or is it? Perhaps a mind damaged by post-traumatic stress is playing tricks on her.

“Dear Child” is a well-executed thriller that kept me guessing and necessitated a return to the beginning once the secrets of the story had been revealed. In the reread, I came to admire Hausmann’s craft even more and the clever way in which she pulled off a must-read sure to appeal to many.

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