Child's Play

Child's Play

5.0 1
by Carmen Posadas

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The internationally bestselling author pens a haunting psychological thriller involving cruelty, secrets, and murder at an exclusive private school .

Luisa, a renowned mystery writer, is beginning her new novel, a story of psychological suspense that centers on the suspicious death of a child at an elite private day school. The


The internationally bestselling author pens a haunting psychological thriller involving cruelty, secrets, and murder at an exclusive private school .

Luisa, a renowned mystery writer, is beginning her new novel, a story of psychological suspense that centers on the suspicious death of a child at an elite private day school. The author has a close familiarity with her setting: her thirteen-year-old daughter, Elba, is about to begin her academic year at the same school that Luisa once attended, a school much like the one in the novel.

But as her work progresses, the line between art and life begins to blur. Deeply repressed anxieties bubble to the surface, and she worries not only for her daughter's well-being but also for her own. As her new novel unfolds, events on the page ring with a disturbing familiarity—a troubling symmetry that is compounded when Luisa runs into two former classmates whose children also attend the school. The unexpected meeting brings to light a gruesome event the three shared.

When Elba is implicated in the accidental death of a classmate, past and present, real life and fiction, become one. Convinced that her novel has set in motion an unspeakable horror, Luisa must find a way to stop it—before everything she loves is lost.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“Carmen Posadas, a prize-winning author who lives in Madrid, plays with expectations about a child’s capacity for innocence and evil in her new novel.”
“Child’s Play is a pungent brew of intellectual stimulation and deep thought about the rules that bind mystery writers and readers together, and why it is necessary to wrench them apart.”
“Child’s Play is a book to be savored, a book to be read and read again with pleasure.”
Publishers Weekly

The line between fiction and reality blurs with disturbing results for Spanish mystery writer Luisa Dávila in Posadas's disappointing suspense novel. Luisa's latest mystery focuses on the strange death of a child at a Madrid private school, similar to the one where Luisa's 11-year-old daughter, Elba, is enrolled (and Luisa herself attended as a teen). She also draws on the accidental death 40 years earlier of her classmate, Antonio Gasset, who fell while playing with his twin brother Miguel, Luisa and the bewitching Sofía Márquez. Now, Sofía is a teacher at the school, and her daughter becomes Elba's best friend. When Miguel's son, who also attends the school, dies under mysterious circumstances, Luisa is alarmed by the parallels not only to her own life but to the story she's creating for her character. The similarities Posadas (The Last Resort) draws between Luisa's childhood, the fictional case and Elba's school life are frustratingly heavy-handed, leaving nothing to the reader's imagination. (Aug.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Posadas (The Last Resort, 2005, etc.) continues her deconstruction of traditional mystery formulas with this teasing but ultimately juiceless interrogation of a fatal, suspiciously coincidental school accident. Forty years ago, Miguel Gasset's twin Antonio died, apparently by drowning in a swimming pool. Now, fate or design or maybe just coincidence has reunited Miguel with the twins' childhood friends, Sof'a Marquez and Luisa Davila. Sof'a has become a schoolteacher; her pupils include her daughter Avril, along with Luisa's daughter Elba and Miguel's son Miki, the subject of a custody battle between Miguel and a fourth wife who remains offstage. Luisa, once a children's novelist, has turned to writing a series of mysteries starring brainy, sexy Irish-Caribbean psychoanalyst Carmen O'Inns. It's only natural that someone whose livelihood depends on concocting and resolving plots would be inclined to see patterns everywhere, but it seems obvious that the death of Miki, who breaks his neck in a fall down a flight of stairs, is more than coincidence. Luisa is already wrestling with an 11-year-old who after hearing her mother tell her for years that she's adopted refuses to believe that she isn't after all. Miki's death, coming on top of the unexpected reunion of childhood friends whose shared memories are so traumatic, might have produced any number of combustible scenarios. What it produces here is a great deal of the kind of talk that owes less to Agatha Christie than to Henry James, an even greater amount of Luisa's navel-gazing, and a wide-ranging series of reflections on the relationship between fiction and life, some provocative, some as transparently self-important as late-night bullsessions in freshman dormitories. Clever, aphoristic, even philosophical, but not by any means suspenseful. Best consumed a paragraph at a time, like the I Ching.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Child's Play
A Novel

Chapter One

Carmen O'Inns

"What a beautiful building," said Carmen O'Inns.

"What's more, it's a school with an excellent reputation," added Isaac Tonñu. "So prestigious nobody would suspect anything could have happened here."

The iron gates slid silently open. As Isaac pulled into the drive, the taxi wheels seemed to make each pebble on the gravel path crunch. The drive was circular, with the school on the far side, so you approached the building from one side and left from the other, after passing the rhododendron bushes, then a well-tended rose bed, and finally the green-framed sash windows of St Severin College.

"What do we know about the victim?"

Carmen O'Inns consulted her black notebook. Name: Oscar Beil. Age: 11 years. Time last seen alive: in the gym class at 10.30 a.m. Cause of death: apparently by drowning in the school swimming pool ... yet what were those marks, those marks...

"What marks, O'Inns?"

"It's still too soon to say exactly. But, although we haven't seen the results of the forensic report, according to the boy's father there was a crescent-shaped indentation on his left temple."

"Anything suspicious about his death?"

Carmen O'Inns stretched her legs. She always travelled in the front passenger seat rather than in the back, so that she could comfortably extend the full ninety-two centimetres of her limbs in their Wolford tights.

"Who found the body?" asked Isaac Tonñu, but Carmen O'Inns didn't reply to this question either. She had taken her powder compact out of her handbag and was conducting the inspectionthat was a feature of every case she worked on: she needed to confirm she was looking as attractive as possible. First she examined her jet-black fringe, satisfying herself that it was neither too long nor too short; too thick nor too thin; that it set off her features to perfection, with its combination of indigenous traits and the jade-green eyes of her Irish ancestors. Then she checked her lips: a skilful blend of a natural outline enhanced by a touch of silicone, that made her look a lot younger than the thirty-seven years that featured on her identity card. The rest of her looks only added to her charms: she had the posture of a ballerina, and strong thighs slender enough to enhance her flat stomach, as she shifted in her seat.

When asked where she came from, Carmen O'Inns always gave the same reply: "From the land of rum, with a few extra drops of whiskey." "Whiskey" and not "whisky" she would add with a knowing wink. "No Scotch mists about me. In other words, I'm half from the Caribbean and half from the land of Erin."

She also liked to point out that she was a psychoanalyst rather than a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and that she believed in world peace, the forces of nature and man's innate goodness, but that for some reason she still couldn't fathom, she always found herself up to her neck in deep water. Like now, for example.

"Was it the boy's parents who came to you?"

"It was the boy's father," O'Inns corrected him. "Oscar Beil didn't have a mother, and he was an only child."

"It's such a dreadful tragedy! He was so young. And then, those marks on his temple..." Tonñu shuddered as he drew up in front of the main school building.

Isaac Tonñu was not his real name. He was born Isaac Newton, but when he arrived in Spain from his native Belize, he had decided to reverse the two syllables of his surname: Tonnew or, better in Spanish, Tonñu. It sounded less foreign and much more suited to his height and his colour: one metre, eighty-nine centimetres of sleek black male. It also led to fewer jokes, although he would never have let anyone make fun of him. Whether it was Isaac Newton or Isaac Tonñu, he knew how to look after himself.

When they pulled up outside the school entrance, O'Inns didn't move, but waited for Isaac to walk round the taxi and open the door for her. They had been working together for more than three years now and kept faithfully to their set rituals. They had faced danger together many times, as during The Mysterious Balanchine Affair and in the case known as Death Dances to a Latin Beat.

"Thank you, Isaac," said Carmen O'Inns, almost whispering into his ear as she glided out of the car. Both of them could feel the electric current flash between their bodies. "Not now," O'Inns told herself, "now's not the right moment." But her rebellious side couldn't stop two irresistible images from surfacing in her mind: first, the inky black of his skin submerged in her pale, Irish flesh; then the faint fragrance of musk that enveloped their nights together as they lay naked on the terrace of his new penthouse overlooking the Royal Palace, the two of them alone in the darkness, in the vast, slumbering city. "Why do we always think of sex when death is in the air?" mused Carmen. "Why is death so orgasmic?" She was about to answer her own question when...

"When... When what? When what, for God's sake?" Luisa asked herself, pausing at the keyboard and reading through the paragraph she had just written. "Can death be orgasmic?" That's what she'd written. And how about someone like Isaac Tonñu ... or Newton? Could he be a taxi driver and be living in a penthouse? That was before she started getting into the other inconsistencies in what she'd just written, such as how unlikely it was for someone, however intrepid a detective they might be, to string together so many ideas in the short distance between the iron gates and the school entrance. And what about that school? Wherever in Spain would you find a school (a boarding school, least of all a co-educational one, and called St Severin to boot) so similar to du Maurier's Manderley, with a rhododendron drive and all the rest of it? Do rhododendrons actually grow in Spain? How do you spell them anyway? Rhodendros? Rhodedendrons?

Luisa put her hand over her mouth. It was a habit of hers, as if this was the only way to rein in her rampant imagination, the imagination which had created Carmen O'Inns in the first place. It's said the characters that writers create are their alter egos, the summary of all they might wish to be but aren't, and yet that was clearly not the case here. Perhaps thirteen years earlier, when Luisa Dávila, moderately successful as a children's author and with an even more muted track record in serious literature, had decided to create this sexy and inquisitive busybody of a psychoanalyst, the hypothesis might have held true. That is why she made Carmen several years younger than she was; gave her a physique similar to her own, but even more appealing, with green eyes she didn't possess; and invented an exotic background for her along with an equally evocative name.

Child's Play
A Novel
. Copyright © by Carmen Posadas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

The daughter of diplomats, Carmen Posadas grew up in Buenos Aires and Moscow. Her novel Little Indiscretions (Pequeñas infamias) won the coveted Planeta Prize, and her books have been translated into twenty-one languages. A prize-winning children's author and writer for film and television, she lives in Madrid.

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Child's Play 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In a private school in Madrid four decades ago, Antonio Gasset drowns in the swimming pool. His twin brother Miguel never quite got over the final separation between them when they were just young students. Now forty years later, Miguel meets his school-days' friends, Sofia Marquez and Luisa Davila. Sofia teaches at the school they attended while her class includes her daughter Avril, Luisa's daughter Elba and Miguel's son Miki; all tweeners. Miguel is in a nasty custody battle with his fourth wife and Luisa has changed from children's writer to cerebral mysteries. When Miki dies falling down stairs at the school, the novelist begins seeing murderers lurking at every corners of the school; no different than how she felt when Antonio allegedly accidentally died. With all that is going on, CHILD'S PLAY lacks suspense as the intriguing story line has more of a philosophical loquacity to it than an action thriller. The key cast members are fully developed, but are introspective even when they debate what happened then and what is occurring now. Well written with a harrowing profoundness that is not for everyone especially those readers who prefer action, Carmen Posades provides an interesting relationship drama in which the ties that bind the living are death. Harriet Klausner