Cover Image: The Chinese Twin

The Chinese Twin

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The Chinese Twin" is a wild story by Sarah Engell. Eva has just lost her daughter, her husband has become paralyzed, and her world is collapsing. Just as all this is happening, Eva's father-in-law is dug up from his grave and the body has disappeared. Also, a girl disappears and later also Eva's mother-in-law. It is full of mystery and scary episodes around Eva.
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This ScandiNoir thriller is set in a small provincial town in Jutland, northern Denmark, and centres around Eva. She is a young woman grieving for a recently stillborn daughter, the first child for her and her husband Steen (who is Chinese), who has been struck down by a sudden, inexplicable paralysis – so Eva is also having to care for her now-bedridden husband.

A series of strange and sinister events start to impinge on Eva’s life: the grave of Steen’s father-in-law is dug up and the corpse removed, with mysterious Chinese symbols painted on the headstone and coffin the only clue; a young Korean girl is kidnapped from the kindergarten where Eva has just returned to work, the only clue an origami flower left at the scene with the same mysterious Chinese symbols. 

When the police inform Eva that the writing translates as ‘Family is the most important thing’, Eva is driven to find out on her own account who or what is behind these terrible crimes. She uncovers unsettling secrets in Steen’s family history: a child bride; a twin brother she never knew he had; a mother who spins fantastical tales (or are they true?), and then is kidnapped from her nursing home.

Events more dramatic than the other then unfold, to a startling and shocking denouement, when the past has terrible consequences for the present.

The writing is visceral: blood, and bodily fluids; the stench of decay; dank and dreary weather; even an eyeball crunched underfoot. 

Parts of the story arc stretch credibility, but on the whole a gripping read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This is my first experience with this Danish author's writing - and I must say that I found this to be a riveting mystery, tinged with horror. Eva, the main narrator, is dealing with her own grief after the child that she and her husband had tried for years to conceive is born still. On top of that, her husband becomes oddly paralyzed in his grief but won't go to a hospital. When the police arrive to inform Eva that her father-in-law's corpse has been stolen from his grave, Eva begins to question what her husband told her about his family - and soon goes in search of her own answers.

It's vividly written and smoothly translated into English. I really couldn't set it aside! I am not quite sure how well received this one will be in America, though. The Danish setting means that Eva's husband, who is Chinese, seems to be on the receiving end of unaddressed racism from Eva's own family - as well as from strangers who assume that all Asian people know one another in Denmark. And though some of the plot's twists aren't quite as shocking as others - and the plot definitely pushes plausibility a few times - I still couldn't stop reading this one and am curious to check out more from Engell in the future!
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The Chinese Twin is a Scandi-noir psychological thriller by Sarah Engell. Released 5th Aug 2021 by Saga Egmont, it's 301 pages and is available in audio and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. It makes searching for info so much easier with the search function. This is a book where I spent a fair bit of time flipping back and forth to gain context and check information.

This is a superbly atmospheric and, at times, positively creepy book. Readers are dropped into two parallel narratives, from two narrators, both in first person, one in the past, and one in the present day. The chapters aren't delineated, which makes it even more disorienting. After a short while, I did manage to separate the points of view, but I sat with a sort of dreamlike confused dread throughout. It was well written although I struggled with the motivations of several of the characters' actions which impacted central plot points. The denouement and resolution were -odd- and not entirely satisfying. I was also uncomfortable with the outlandish representation of Chinese culture, especially given the upswing in targeted racist attacks in recent times.

Originally released in Danish, this English language translation is seamless. The translation work doesn't impair the scansion of the narrative and it doesn't feel as though it's translated, especially from a Scandinavian language which has generally shorter, more direct cadence. 

The author is quite gifted in the more technical aspects of her craft and although there were some character motivations and a few plot points which dragged me out of my suspension of disbelief, it was overall an enjoyable and immersive book. The language is rough, approximately R-rated. Trigger warnings for kidnapping, child loss, stillbirth, trauma, murder, and stereotyping.

The audiobook version is read by Olivia Vinall who has a wonderful range of emotion and delineates the characters' voices very well. I had no trouble keeping the narrative straight with her capable narration. Run time is 7 hours, 8 minutes. 

Three and a half stars for the book version, four stars for the audiobook. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Saga Egmont for an advance copy of The Chinese Twin, a stand-alone psychological thriller set XXXXX

Eva is on bereavement leave after her daughter is still born. Her husband, Steen, has become inexplicably paralysed. Then a series of strange events, her father in law’s remains stolen from his grave, a young girl kidnapped from the nursery where she works and more, leave her thinking it has something to do with her missing brother in law, a man she didn’t know existed before these happenings.

I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy The Chinese Twin as it’s not really my kind of novel. I like something I can grab hold of and speculate on. This novel feels like a study in madness, so I had no idea throughout the novel if any of it was true and the rather dreamlike tone reinforces this. Add to this, there are two first person narrators and no indication, only context, of which one is speaking. One narrator is Eva, the other is more of a mystery.

To be fair, the novel is very atmospheric with a sense of creepiness, dread and unease. It is well done with the reader having no idea where the narrators fit in, what they are going to do or even if what they are saying is true. This tension ramps up as the novel progresses. The conclusion to the novel puts much of the preceding events into context, but still leaves a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty.

The Chinese Twin is not for me, but readers who prefer a psychological approach will lap it up.
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Thank you to Saga Egmont for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

The Chinese Twin by Sarah Engell is a spine-tingling thriller with twists that you will not see coming. The story revolves around Eva, a housewife in Denmark who has to take care of her husband Steen, who has recently become paralyzed from the neck down.  When a young girl is kidnapped and a long-buried body disappears, Eva has to figure out the clues and find the culprit.  The only clues that the police can find are short phrases written in Chinese at the scenes of the crimes.  Interspersed between Eva's chapters are flashbacks to a young Chinese boy's disturbing past.  But who is he?  And how is he related to the recent crimes?

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2, when two police officers come to visit Eva and Steen:

My outburst stops them.
Torben looks at me questioningly.
‘It’s just that …’ I straighten my hair again. Try to breathe normally. ‘Don’t be alarmed. But he can’t move.’
‘It’s because … He’s been paralysed.’
I whisper the word, but as soon as it passes my lips, it swells up and fills the living room like an oversized piece of furniture.
‘But a doctor has seen him?’
I nod. ‘Doctor Møller says that it’s a completely normal reaction given what we’ve been through. He says it should go away in a few days.’
‘But did you not say he’s been lying here for twelve days?’
‘Steen has always been very sensitive. Dr Møller knows that well. We have to give him time.’
They exchange a glance and I start sweating under my arms.
‘Shouldn’t he be in hospital?’ asks Dagmar.
‘Doctor Møller thinks it’s best that he’s in a safe environment.’
The more I distort the truth, the more I sweat. In reality, Dr Møller had said exactly the same thing as Dagmar. Even took out his phone to ring the hospital. But I talked him out of it. Begged him to keep it between us.
They can’t take him from me. Steen is the only one I have left."

When I first started reading this book, I was so excited to find out what happens next and how the mystery unfolds.  Unfortunately, as a reader of Chinese descent, I am not satisfied with the representation of Chinese people in this book.  I am not the type of reader who reads books and asks for more Chinese representation.  However, since this book is titled "The Chinese Twin" and Chinese traditions make a major part of the plot, I am justified in wishing there was just one nice, normal character of Chinese descent.  Instead, the Chinese characters are paralyzed from the neck down, suffering from dementia, or missing and potentially evil.  

I took off 1 star because there are no Chinese characters that we as readers can be sympathetic to, and the Chinese traditions in the plot are portrayed negatively.  I took another star off, because the chapters would shift between the two first-person POV's without marking whose chapter it was, which was confusing.  Overall, The Chinese Twin is an exciting and gripping thriller, but I cannot fully recommend it for the reasons stated above.  If you're intrigued by the excerpt, or if you're a fan of thrillers in general, you can check out this book when it comes out in August.
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Thank you so much, Netgalley and Saga Egmont for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a Spell-binding, creepy, haunting read. I have never read anything by this author before, but this book had me hooked from the first page. As soon as i started it gripped me, before i had reached chapter 5 my jaw had dropped. Even though it starts off a little confusing, it is fast paced and soon makes you really think and try to decipher where this story is going. There is a lot of tragic things happening to the main character, hence the trigger warnings, but it just adds to making this book stand out and definitely makes it memorable. With its quick short chapters, which almost always ends with the reader questioning and wanting more and the multiple pov’s, i highly recommend this Mystery, Suspense Thriller, especially if you enjoy endings you dont see coming, i thought i had it figured out but the ending was way more perfect then i could have thought.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Saga Egmont for the review copy. Although I received this book as a review copy, are all of my words honest, and I do only give my true opinions.  

"The Chinese Twin" is a wild story by Sarah Engell. Eva has just lost her daughter, her husband has become paralyzed, and her world is collapsing. Just as all this is happening, Eva's father-in-law is dug up from his grave and the body has disappeared. Also, a girl disappears and later also Eva's mother-in-law. It is full of mystery and scary episodes around Eva.

This is a psychological book that surprised me a lot. I was not at all aware that Sarah Engell could write such a catchy, scary, and not least such a sensational novel. Filled with excitement and nail-biting moments, this book is truly a great recommendation from here. I know Sarah Engell from her youth novels and they have always been an experience to read, but this was something completely different. This suspense novel is full of suspense and is something completely different from the youth novels. But it is still clear to notice Sarah Engell on the pages as the writing style matches the one we know. However, the plot is something completely different and exciting.

From the start, the whole story seemed confusing, but it was soon to turn out that there was a good meaning to the madness. Suddenly, pieces began to fall into place and the story began to make sense and to stick together. The characters are caricatured and unique and are easy to distinguish from each other. It is clear to notice that they develop through the narrative, and it is a development we as readers are allowed to follow on an equal footing with the characters themselves. Especially to follow Eva, who is starting to learn more about her husband's family and past, is incredibly exciting to follow. And at the same time extremely scary and mysterious.
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