Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine (audio book)

The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine and read by Joe Van Moyland (4 CDs, 2011, Oakhill Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-85735-925-9)

Note: The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight is being published as The Double in the US on 21 February 2012.

Review: Sixteen-year-old "Chap" who has been living rough in London ends up at a hostel where he is identified as the missing Cassiel Roadnight. Though he looks almost identical, Chap knows he's not Cassiel but what if he became him? A loving family and home would be his, at least for a while until the real Cassiel turns up.

So, Chap claims Cassiel's life and is returned to his sister, brother and mother in a lovely cottage near Hay-on-Wye. How long can Cassiel keep the deception up and what about the effect his deception is having on his new family, in particular his sister and heavily-medicated mum?

Chap thought he was getting the perfect life but it's not long before a darkness appears. What has happened to Cassiel? What Chap discovers could destroy everything he's got and the people he's beginning to care about as well as bringing danger to himself. As Chap learns about Cassiel, we learn about Chap and how he ended up without a name or a family and on the streets.

The story goes full circle with a violent confrontation at the Hay on Fire festival, exactly two years since both Cassiel and Chap disappeared from their respective homes.

The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight is a well-written, absorbing teenage mystery with many twists and turns. It's a tense read, as Chap is always on edge, wondering when his cover will be blown. Despite "stealing" Cassiel's life, Chap is a likeable character with a solid moral compass and well-educated despite his lack of formal schooling. All the characters felt real and are well portrayed by narrator, Joe Van Moyland. The author also looks at alienation from society, not just of teenagers but adults too, as people get lost from the mainstream and the nature of family.

On a personal note, I loved the Hay-on-Wye setting as I'm a regular visitor and could imagine the scenery.

Jenny Valentine doesn't hide the fact that this story was inspired by the classic Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey and I have fond memories of watching the BBC tv series when I was (much) younger with the gorgeous Mark Greenstreet in the lead(s).

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