Title: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
Jim Clemo Series Book Two
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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.
Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan is a suspenseful, character driven novel that also deals with complex issues such as immigrant bias and childhood cancer. Although this latest release is the second installment in the Jim Clemo series, it can be read as a standalone.
Abdi Mahad and Noah Sadler are best friends despite the disparity in their socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Abdi is the son of Somali immigrants who fled to Britain when he was just a baby. His father Nur supports the family by driving a cab and his mom Maryam volunteers at a local refugee center. Their parents’ plan for a better future for their children is coming to fruition as his older sister Sophia attends university as she pursues her dream of becoming a midwife. Noah is the son of a successful war photographer but his life has been a blur of hospital stays and treatment for his childhood cancer. Both boys attend the prestigious Medes College and by all accounts, their friendship is trouble free. However, after the teenagers sneak out one evening, Noah is clinging to life after a near drowning in the Feeder Canal and Abdi is so traumatized by what happened that he is practically catatonic. Detective Chief Inspector Corrinne Fraser assigns the case to newly returned to duty Detective Inspector Jim Clemo who carefully begins his investigation along with Detective Constable Justin Woodley.
Needing to prove himself to both his boss and his co-workers, Jim treads lightly as he tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Noah. Since Abdi either can’t or won’t answer questions, Jim and Justin attempt to recreate the events from the evening Noah ended up in the canal. While nothing in Noah’s behavior is out of the ordinary, they quickly learn that something was troubling Abdi by night’s end. Finally pinpointing what triggered Abdi’s unease, Jim struggles to understand the underlying reason for the teenager’s unrest. How this figures into the events that precipitated Noah’s fall into the canal is unclear and Jim remains unable to tell if he fell or if Abdi pushed him.
Jim’s former love interest Emma Zhang is now a reporter and she is stirring up controversy with her inflammatory and oftentimes, speculative, accusations. She deliberately creates doubt with Noah’s mother Fiona who was not exactly a fan of her son’s friendship with Abdi. Emma deliberately exploits Fiona’s grief over her son’s accident and anti-immigration rhetoric threatens to derail Jim’s investigation.
Odd Child Out is a compelling mystery that touches on relevant social issues. The main focus of the story is uncovering the truth about what happened to Noah but Gilly Macmillan skillfully weaves the Mahad family’s heartbreaking past into the storyline. The plot is complex and the characters are multi-faceted with realistic strengths and weaknesses. With a few startling revelations, shocking family secrets and unexpected plot twists, the novel comes to an action-packed, tension-filled conclusion.