“99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter – Book Review

“The past is always part of my present.”

Emma – is in her late thirties and is mother to eight year old Grace. Every mother’s worst fear is realized when Grace does not return home from school one day. Emma’s sister and mother come to her house to support her and her husband, Matt. We learn that Emma is keeping secrets. Her mother seems strangely ‘cold’. We also learn that she is not her mother’s biological daughter – that she came to live with the family when she was ten years old…

The little girl is lured away by a strange man who gives her a Mars bar and tells her he is taking her to see her Mummy. Though it soon becomes apparent that that is a lie. She is taken to another country and given to a couple named Catherine and Michael. She is warned to never speak of her ‘Mummy’ again. She belongs to Catherine and Michael now.

Stephanie – Emma’s sister and Grace’s aunt. She is divorced from her husband and is a single mother to teenage son Jamie. She secretly harbors a crush on Emma’s husband Matt. Stephanie adores her niece Grace, and is desolate about her disappearance. She wonders why her mother has even come to Emma’s house. “She never was the most maternal of mothers. I’ve often questioned in my mind why she had me, and took Emma in.”

Maggie – an elderly widow, who has had a difficult life and has seen more than her fair share of loss. Her granddaughter Zoe disappeared when she was ten years old. Maggie’s daughter Sarah, Zoe’s mother, never got over losing her, and took her own life. Estranged from her son, Scott and now a widow. Maggie is alone. She suffers from depression and has grown bitter.

Then… she sees in the papers that another little girl has gone missing in similar circumstances to that of when her granddaughter disappeared. Old wounds are re-opened and Maggie’s life begins to spiral…

The reason I took so long to read this novel from my backlist is that I had read quite a few ‘missing children’ novels, and didn’t want to read another. What a mistake!  “99 Red Balloons“, though it is a debut, is an exemplary example of the very best of the missing child trope.

Thriller readers who enjoy plot twists will love this book. I had several ‘light bulb moments’ when things were revealed. Hindsight being 20/20, once I knew the plot reveal I realized that yes – it all makes sense.

This is an accomplished debut novel. The author has gone on to pen four further stand-alone titles which I have added to my TBR.

With characters that you can feel real empathy for, this novel deftly weaves myriad, tenuous threads into a solid work which was a joy to read. Highly recommended!This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Avon/HarperCollins via Edelweiss. This is a title from my Edelweiss backlist which I should have read and reviewed ages ago… my apologies to the author and the publisher.

  ISBN: 9780008248864 – ASIN: ‎ B071YYKJS6 – 352 pages

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston, Lancashire with her family. She loves the north of England, setting most of her stories in the area – including the novel she is writing at the moment.

Elisabeth (Libby) Carpenter won a Northern Writers New Fiction Award (2016) and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 & 2016) and MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015).

99 Red Balloons” is her debut novel and she has gone on to write “11 Missed Calls“; “Only A Mother“; “The Woman Downstairs” and “The Vacancy” since then.

Connect with Libby Carpenter via her website, on Twitter and/or Instagram.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Fictionophile’s MAY 2022 Reading Wrap-Up #bookblogger #MonthlyWrapUp | Fictionophile

  2. Carla says:

    Great review, Lynne. It’s great that this was a wonderful read for you and you now have even more books added to your TBR. 😁📚💞


  3. Pingback: “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter – Book Review @HarperCollins @LibbyCPT #99RedBalloons #BookReview – Book Library

  4. Pingback: “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter – Book Review @HarperCollins @LibbyCPT #99RedBalloons #BookReview – Imobiliare 24

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