International Writers Magazine: New Children's Fiction
by Beverley Birch
published by Egmont October 2006
Sam North review
Where are you Charly?
begins with an archaeological school trip to Africa and sounds
like a dream come true for the British kids who go. But four children
go missing and one adult, the journalist Charlotte Turner who
is documenting the trip. Days later one of the missing boys, Joe,
reappears, some distance from where he disappeared. He is dazed
and confused, exhausted, dehydrated and he cant remember
a thing. Not one thing about what happened to his friends. Everyone
now fears the others may have already perished.
Ella, (14) back
in England hears of the disappearances and it concerns her deeply. The
journalist Charlotte (Charly) Turner is her sister and guardian. She
just cannot sit still in England and wait for news, good or bad. She
finds a way to get to Africa. Flying out the same day, she hears the
news of Joe being found. She has no faith in the searchers in Africa.
Charly is important to her and she must interrogate this Joe and help
find her sister.
She arrives an unwelcome guest. No one wants a young kid to get in the
way of a serious investigation and what can she do anyway? She isnt
sure herself but she is determined to find the investigating Detective,
interview Joe in hospital and make things happen.
She finds hostility, no one thinks she has a right to be there, in the
way. However Inspector Simo Murothi the senior detective understands
Ella. He is wary of her, but he has a suspicion that this obstinate
British girl may help him discover what has happened.
It is very bad for the tourist industry for children to go missing,
for anyone to go missing. They all have to be found, and soon before
dehydration kills them. There is another possibility, that someone has
abducted them but Inspector Murothi strangely does not suspect foul
play at first.
And certainly there is a malevolence on the mountain. Elissa Stratton,
the English Deputy head in charge of the expedition to Chomlaya is rude
and hostile. What does she know of Africa? Why has she brought all these
kids from London there and why does she seem to favour some over others?
Is she and her bullying ways somehow the reason the kids disappeared?
Why has she locked up all the childrens diaries. Why are so many
of the kids afraid to talk to Ella?
Ella finds her sisters diaries buried in a secret place (so that
Mss Stratton wouldnt find them) and hopes this will reveal the
reasons for the mystery. All the terrible things Miss Stratton did to
the children are in there and Ella discovers that Charly is almost talking
to her on these pages, but will it help them find her?
Ella is aware that with each hour the kids and Charly are missing brings
them closer to death.
What really happened
to Joe still back at the hospital unable to remember anything. Another
conversation with him and indeed he remembers something, a tiny detail,
but it is enough Ella hopes.
Rift is an extraordinary book written by Beverly Birch, who has an enormous
affinity with Africa and its people. Inspector Murothi is a wonderful,
intelligent character, all wise and wily an African Morse. An excellent
creation, perhaps worthy of his own book one day.
Ella, the driven fourteen year old, who has good instincts,personal
drive and a fierce determination to find her missing sister is a wonderful
role model. And find her sister she must, else shed be given up
to care back in England.
The atmosphere is full of dread and doom, the investigation is built
up in layers using interviews, diaries, little revealing incidents and
everything points towards a growing evil within the camp all
emanating from the tyrannical Miss Stratton.
Ella and Inspector Murothi intend to chip away at the truth to find
the missing children. They talk to the children and the other teachers,
all of whom seem afraid of Miss Stratton. Then, suddenly, another child,
Matt, is found exhausted, also suffering from memory loss and disorientation.
Just what is happening in this part of Africa? Who is taking the children
and why? Where is Charly in all this? Who is doing this!
Rift is a great, tense, vivid investigation novel with extraordinary
characters in a beautiful, remote setting a powerful, compelling
© Sam North August 2006
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