Review Blog

Mar 18 2011

The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine

cover image

Harper Collins, 2010. ISBN 9780007283613.
(Age 13+) Recommended. The runaway boy, who has no name, longs for a normal family life and somewhere to call home. He really looks like the photo of a missing boy, Cassiel Roadnight, and the temptation to know a mother and sister proves too much for him. He decides to take on the identity of the missing boy, but doesn't think through the repercussions of his hasty decision. All is not well in the Roadnight household and there seem to be dark secrets. Why did Cassiel disappear? Is he still alive or hiding out somewhere?
The story is told in the first person by the boy, although the reader doesn't get a name for the narrator until right at the end of the story. Valentine is a master at character building and all the emotions and fears of the people in Cassiel's disfunctional family are brilliantly described.
This is a compelling thriller. The tension that Valentine builds up kept me on the edge of my seat right to the end. As a reader I could see the risks that the boy was taking in pretending to be someone else and kept hoping that it wouldn't lead to complete disaster for him. The question of Cassiel's fate kept nagging at me. Was he missing or was he dead? If he was murdered what was going to happen to the boy? Would he be strong and smart enough to outwit a murderer? At the same time there is a parallel mystery. Where did the boy come from and why does he have such an uncanny resemblance to the missing Cassiel? Gradually small clues are left but I was still surprised when I learnt about the boy's background and Cassiel's fate.
Valentine writes intelligent and insightful fiction and this is a memorable book. It would make an excellent introduction to the mystery genre for young readers who might then go on to reading other mysteries, like those by Josephine Tey, who is thanked by Valentine for inspiration at the end of the book .
Pat Pledger

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