Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Odd Child Out

Summary: How well do you know the people you love…?

Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable. But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal, Abdi can't--or won't--tell anyone what happened.

Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident. But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle. Noah is British. Abdi is a Somali refugee. And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol. Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth. Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.

Because the truth hurts. -- William Morrow

I was excited to learn that Gilly Macmillan had written a new book! I enjoyed both of her earlier novels because they were a mix of mystery and literary fiction; and her latest novel ODD CHILD OUT is once again a compelling mystery blended with some intriguing characters and relationships. All in all, I liked this novel quite a bit and still consider myself a fan of her work.

ODD CHILD OUT is an interesting look at a mystery surrounding two teenage boys who are best friends. Noah, who has been dealing with cancer for years and recently learned that he only has a few months to live, is found unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal. A witness say his friend Abdi was there when Noah fell into the canal; however, Abdi has totally shut down and is unable (or unwilling) to tell anyone what happened.

Detective Jim Clemo (from WHAT SHE KNEW fame) is back at his job after a leaving of absence. He gets assigned this case because it initially appears that it's a high school prank gone wrong. However, tensions in the community escalate because Abdi is the prime suspect who happens to be a Somali refugee; and this case becomes quite the public sensation. Can Clemo battle demons from his own past while navigating the two teens' families... and eventually solve this tragic mystery?

ODD CHILD OUT was in intriguing read and pretty darn timely given the tensions in the community against refugees. And while I did enjoy this book, I'll admit that I felt the "literary" aspects of the novel were much stronger than the mystery ones. Of course, I was curious about what happened to Noah as well as the secondary mystery surrounding Abdi's family; however, I didn't find these issues to be the strengths of the novel. Rather, I appreciated the author's portrayal of teen friendships and how their families reacted to the unfortunate events.

One thing I found interesting about this novel was that the author chose Noah (who was unconscious in a coma) to tell his own story from his hospital bed. I enjoyed how it gave insight into his character and his past relationship with both his parents and Abdi. In addition, I enjoyed getting Clemo's perspective on the case. I remember him from WHAT SHE KNEW, and I liked that he was back, with all of his issues and insights, in this novel.

Another aspect of this novel that I appreciated was how the author brought Somalia to life -- both the good and especially the bad -- as well as the plight of a refugee in a new country. Noah's father was a professional photographer who traveled to Somalia, and his photography exhibit demonstrated some of the horrors of the camps. In addition, Abdi's parents' stories and their struggles were described in difficult terms. I found it interesting how the author merged the two families' stories... and then revealed the secrets behind their lives.

As I mentioned earlier, I think the real strength of ODD CHILD OUT was the relationship between the boys and the portrayal of the families. As a result, this novel would make an interesting book club selection. This novel is extremely timely given the plight of refugees in our world, and I think this book humanizes them in an important way. In addition, there is a reading guide with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family dynamics, secrets, friendship, forgiveness, guilt, sickness, and the role of the media.

I enjoyed ODD CHILD OUT and consider myself a big fan of Ms. Macmillan's. I recommend this novel to fans of literary and domestic suspense.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I've ever read Macmillan's work but it sure sounds like I need to.