Odd Child Out
By Gilly Macmillan
William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 3, 2018
Synopsis from Publisher:
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.
Gilly Macmillan is one of my favorite authors. She consistently produces stories that are compelling and addictive. With Odd Child Out, I was amazed at the different stories taking place at one time. All the stories are gripping and interesting. Sometimes when there are multiple stories being told within a novel, I tend to favor one story over the other. I sometimes even skip ahead so I can read the follow up to the story I find most interesting. This was not the case with Odd Child Out. I was captivated with each character and their story.
Odd Child Out is set in Bristol, England, a city about 100 miles from London. In this novel, Bristol is the city in which the story takes place but it is also a character. The city is still on edge after a white pride rally where events turned violent. Bristol is also a refuge for Somalians fleeing a civil war in Somalia. Abdi, one of the main characters, and his family are Somalian refugees. The intolerance they suffer throughout the book adds another layer to the story. The social issues facing Bristol and its community play out in the background of the story and add complexity to the characters.
Abdi and Noah are the mostly unlikely of friends. Noah is white and the son of a successful photographer, Abdi is black and his father is a taxi driver. Despite their differences in class and culture, Noah and Abdi bond over computers, chess, and a drive to excel in school. After an event celebrating the release of Noah’s father’s newest collection, Noah and Abdi set out into the night on their own. While out, Noah falls into the canal and nearly drowns. Abdi is not hurt but appears to be in shock and is unable to recount the events leading up to Noah’s fall. Noah’s condition is further complicated because he also has cancer. During the investigation Abdi disappears, casting further suspicion on him and his actions. DI Jim Clemo is assigned to investigate Noah’s fall. Clemo is just back on duty after a leave of absence following a mental breakdown. He struggles to maintain his emotions and regain the respect of his boss and coworkers. Clemo must navigate racial tensions and the media to find the truth behind Noah’s fall and locate a traumatized Abdi.
While there is some suspense in this novel, I would not classify it as crime fiction. There are some elements of a police procedural, a great deal of the story is told from Clemo’s perspective, but I think this story is more a character study or literary suspense. A study of teenage boys who become friends because they only see their shared interests; they do not see or care about the ways they differ. The sections told from Clemo’s perspective do give some insight into the police investigation and the steps Clemo is taking to find out what happened to Noah. However, these parts are primarily dealing with Clemo’s personal issues rather than the case.
Earlier I used the phrase - main characters. I used that term loosely, because all of the characters in this book are main characters. All of their stories are linked to the night of Noah’s fall and the aftermath. Macmillan has elegantly created several different back stories of people from very different backgrounds and linked them together. The reader can understand each character’s emotions and actions. She has managed to do this without the story becoming tiresome, repetitive or boring.
I found Odd Child Out engaging, compelling, and thought provoking. Macmillan addresses sensitive social issues with tact and grace. I cannot imagine anyone reading this book and not be able to relate to at least one the characters. While Odd Child Out is the second book in the DI Jim Clemo series it can be read as a stand-alone. However I do think it is important to read the first book, What She Knew to understand the mindset of Clemo. What She Knew will give you more background into Jim’s character and the circumstances surrounding his leave of absence, which is mentioned a few times in the book. After I finished reading this novel, I thought about the title. I wondered which child Macmillan is referring to in the title, Abdi or Noah. This is one of the many reasons this book will stay with me for some time.
Murder and Moore Rating:
4.5 out of 5 Stars