The Girl in the Red Coat | Kate Hamer

I do love a good LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD styled tale and THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT fits this genre well. With echoes of Madeleine McCann this however will be hard for some. Kernel Fiona reviews and loves this debut novel from the talented Kate Hamer. THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT has been out for a couple of months now from Allen and Unwin Australia and it is worth a read, check out Fi’s thoughts below. Oh and the love for the book has been grand, a movie is in the early stages of development. You will be able to grab this in most bookstores, or you can obtain it HERE. And as alway, all the best……………..JK.



Kate Hamer is a former television documentary-maker and life-long writer of short stories. THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is her debut novel and a mesmerising page-turner at that. While having the word Girl in the title of a mystery novel seems to be popular at the moment (think GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN), Hamer insists that she had the name of the book right from the very start and this is no gimmicky marketing ploy. I tend to believe her. She also notes that it wasn’t until she had completed the novel that she noticed the comparisons that can and would be drawn with the fairy tale, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.


THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT begins with eight year old Carmel, a somewhat unusual child who resents the helicopter parenting of her mother, Beth. Perhaps a little over-protective, Beth is struggling with her new status as a single parent and the loss of her husband to another, younger woman. When Beth takes Carmel to a story-telling festival one weekend, they become separated and Carmel disappears. It soon becomes apparent that she has been abducted and so begins Beth’s heart-rending quest to find her child. While the police and a private investigator try to locate Carmel, she is beginning an incredible journey with a strange man who believes she is an agent of God.


The Girl in the Red Coat Author image



Hamer does an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of raw panic as Beth experiences the initial emotions of terror and disbelief as she runs screaming through the grounds of the festival, frantically calling her child’s name. One minute Carmel is looking at a book display and the next she is gone. How could this happen? It doesn’t help that the area is shrouded in mist and crowded with performers and visitors. Tearing blindly through the displays and tents, Beth’s nightmare quickly turns to hysteria.

As each day passes, she is gripped by an over-whelming sense of guilt. Why did she take her eyes off Carmel for just a few seconds? Didn’t she realise it was unsafe for her in amongst the throngs of people? In her mind she is to blame for Carmel’s disappearance and a great personal flagellation occurs. At the beginning of the investigation, Carmel’s father, Paul is also convinced that Beth has acted negligently and he turns his wrath on her. Desperately, Beth continually seeks him out believing they will find comfort in this shared tragedy.


Vaguely similar to the Madeleine McCann case in that the possibility is canvassed that Carmel has been spirited out of the country, there is also the idea that this is the work of a complete stranger who had somehow gleaned personal information about the child. Is there a vague connection to the family and had the abductor been watching the child in the lead up to her disappearance? How random is this abduction?

THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is told through the alternating experiences of mother and daughter. As Carmel’s separation from Beth turns from weeks into years, her voice also matures so readers are taken from the observations of an eight year old through to the insights of a teenager. In the passing of time, Beth also changes but never entirely gives up hope that she will see her daughter again. For Beth, the police efforts, the alleged sightings and the messages from psychics are “signs and clues emerging like seals among the waves only to disappear again, leaving me scanning the horizon.”


The Girl in the Red Coat Book Cover image


As Carmel’s story unfolds, we enter the world of religious cults and faith healers. The depiction of life within the confines of a clandestine religious movement is chilling with all the trappings we have come to expect – the changing of names and identities, itinerant lifestyles, home schooling and to some extent, the snake charmer’s get rich quick, focus. Married with this is the over arching Little Red Riding Hood theme with the idea of the lost child being stalked by a predator. In this case it’s not the woods on the way to grandma’s house where the danger lurks but a seemingly innocuous story-telling festival. Just as in the fairy tale, the “wolf” is disguised as the benevolent figure of a grandparent.


The magic of THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is the examination of the unbreakable bond between mother and child. Although great distance may separate them, they are linked through their memories and their enduring love for one another. There is also originality to this work and while I imagine some readers will be dissatisfied with the number of loose ends, I credit the author with inviting readers to develop their own conclusions. There’s no spoon-feeding here. Hamer has left quite a few aspects of the plot open to individual interpretation with the silent acknowledgement that a story means different things to different people. The ending comes swiftly, in roughly ten pages but for all of its suddenness, for me there was still great satisfaction. THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is a unique take on tired themes by an astonishing and refreshing new writer.


4 Pops



Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then. You can catch her and her tweets at @FionaJayneFyfe1

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.