By Jenny Valentine
Published by HarperColllins
ISBN 978 0 n00 78361 3
This top-notch mystery thriller is set in a small British town where a Fire Festival is held every year on November 5. The locals dress up in weird makeup and costumes, and parade through the streets holding burning torches. A Wicker Man, a massive, human-like effigy woven of cane and willow, is burned in the town square.
During the festival two years ago, teenager Cassiel Roadnight disappeared. No trace of him or clues about his disappearance have been found, leaving his mother, sister and brother distraught.
Jenny Valentine's latest novel, The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight, is narrated by a 16-year-old boy who, at first appearance, has no connection with Cassiel or his grieving family. But all that is going to change very dramatically.
The young narrator is Chap, a teen who been passed through the welfare system and ended up at the bottom of the heap, living rough on the streets of London. Taken into custody for threatening behaviour, Chap is suddenly faced with a terrible and unbelievable situation. The two adults dealing with his case see a poster about a missing teenager called Cassiel Roadnight. Chap looks exactly like Cassiel.
The social authorities are convinced that Chap is Cassiel, and the homeless teen decides to go along with it. It appears that Cassiel has a loving family, a comfortable life and a real home. Can Chap pull off the deception and convince everyone he is Cassiel?
Make sure you cancel your plans when you start reading Cassiel Roadnight because you won't want to put it down until you turn the last page. The novel puts many so-called adult mystery thrillers to shame with its tight plot and superbly built-up suspense. Valentine keeps up the tension and the pace in the story right to the end, and the climax, when it comes, is a knock-out.
The Roadnights are overjoyed to get their son back, and Chap's hesitancy to be back is seen as natural. Valentine gets perfectly into the lonely teen's mind, personality and confusion, and as Chap's back-story is gradually revealed, the story is drawn together ever more tightly.
Chap is tough and clever - and his past makes him vulnerable. The Roadnights are his new family, something he has never had. But in the midst of all the love they offer him is a sense that all is not well.
Assuming someone else's identity is a dangerous thing to do, and Chap slowly realises there are deadly secrets under the veneer of love and respectability that the Roadnights present to the world. Will Chap get to the truth before it is too late? It is an exciting and very tense ride getting to the truth behind Cassiel's double life.