Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Silent Saturday by Helen Grant

review by Maryom

Veerle's mother is over-protective and clinging; instead of giving her daughter greater freedom and responsibility with age, Claudine is tightening her hold, rarely allowing Veerle out on her own. At seventeen, Veerle is tired of this, and, instead of her mother's attitude keeping her safe, it's actually pushing her into taking risks. So when, one night returning home on the bus, she spots a light flickering in a deserted castle, she chooses to investigate it rather than head back to the stifling atmosphere at home. Inside she finds Kris, a childhood friend, who turns out to be a member of secret group, the koekoreken, or cuckoos, from their habit of breaking into and making use of unoccupied buildings in the Brussels area. Getting in to anything from the abandoned castle to luxurious homes whose owners are away holidaying, the idea isn't to move in permanently, or cause any damage, but merely to spend an evening there - in fact ideally the 'breaker-in' should do something to improve the property, from, say, fixing a broken window catch to alphabetising the owners' CD collection. It offers Veerle just the sort of excitement she's been looking for, but there's more danger lurking in wait for the Koekoeken than merely being spotted by neighbours - someone is stalking the members, armed with a crossbow and knives, picking them off one by one .....
This is the kind of YA book that I love; one that doesn't dumb down in any way, one that offers as exciting and compelling a read as many adult books - the major differences being the age of the characters, and less blood and gore (which I can well do without!)  Set in Brussels, among romantic castles and the more modern, but almost as magnificent, houses of diplomats and TV stars, this is a brilliantly constructed thriller that will have the reader gripped early on and unable to put the book down till the final page! It opens slowly but the tension gradually, inexorably, mounts along with the body count, building to a dramatic finale as Veerle confronts the Hunter who's been preying on the Koekoeken. Two other threads run alongside this - Veerle's deteriorating relationship with her mother, who resorts to some mean tricks to force her daughter to stay at home, and a growing romance with Kris - and both help flesh out the characters, particularly Veerle and make them real people rather than the 2D stereo-types of horror movies. Also, in more chilling vein, the reader gets to see some events from the point of view of the Hunter - to share his cold, calculating thought-processes as he sets about stalking his victims.

Brilliant stuff! I loved every page - and now want to move on to the next in the series the Demons of Ghent.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Corgi/Transworld
Genre - teen, YA, thriller,

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