Beth was still adjusting to life as a single mom, living in their little house in Norfolk, England, and spending time with her eight-year-old daughter Carmel at festivals and parks. Carmel was always wearing a red coat, her favorite color.
But Beth worried constantly, as Carmel had a tendency to slip away, on her own, no matter how tightly Beth held her hand. And just as she feared, it happened one foggy day at a crowded event. She was there one second, and then she was gone.
From here, the story of The Girl in the Red Coat bifurcates, with Carmel’s narrative alternating with Beth’s.
We see Beth constantly searching, even after the police have almost given up. There are sightings, but they come to naught.
Carmel is on a very different journey, and her voice brings the reader right into the frightening and disturbing world she now inhabits.
Sometimes I wondered why Carmel didn’t escape, as there were moments when her captor was less vigilant. But then I recalled the story he told when he took her…and how she had believed him. However, a part of Carmel holds steadfast to the core of who she is, separate from those who now control her world; holding onto her true center could be her saving grace.
Back in Beth’s world, after months and even years of darkness, she starts over, becoming a nurse. And she even becomes friends with her ex-husband Paul and his new wife Lucy.
What will happen to suddenly bring a resolution to the nightmare? How does a conversation with a strange woman named Alice help sharpen the focus in the search?
In some ways, the ending felt very abrupt, but perhaps the author is leaving it up to the reader to fill in the blanks. Definitely a captivating story. 4.5 stars.