A Stranger in the Family

A Stranger in the Family

by Robert Barnard


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From Robert Barnard, the internationally acclaimed Diamond Dagger–winning crime writer . . .

Kit Philipson has always felt like something of a stranger in his family. Growing up as the only child of professional parents in Glasgow, Scotland, he had every advantage. His mother was a teacher; his father, a journalist, escaped from Nazi Germany at the age of three on one of the 1939 Kindertransports. But on her deathbed, Kit’s mother tells him he was adopted and that his birth name was Novello. Soon, vague memories of his early life begin to surface: his nursery, pictures on the wall, the smell of his birth mother when she’d been cooking. And, sometimes, there are more disturbing memories—of strangers taking him by the hand and leading him away from the only family he had ever known. A search of old newspaper files reveals that a three-year-old boy named Peter Novello was abducted from his parents’ holiday hotel in Sicily in 1989. Now the young man who has known himself only as Kit sets out to rediscover his past, the story of two three-year-old boys torn from their mothers in very different circumstances. Kit’s probing inquiries are sure to bring surprises. They may also unearth dangerous secrets that dare never be revealed.

With sharp wit and deep insight, Robert Barnard sweeps away all preconceptions in this powerful study of maternal love and the danger of obsession.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780749009120
Publisher: Allison & Busby, Limited
Publication date: 08/28/2011
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Robert Barnard (1936-2013) was awarded the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Nero Wolfe Award, as well as the Agatha and Macavity awards. An eight-time Edgar nominee, he was a member of Britain's distinguished Detection Club, and, in May 2003, he received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement in mystery writing. His most recent novel, Charitable Body, was published by Scribner in 2012.

Read an Excerpt

A Stranger in the Family

A Novel of Suspense
By Robert Barnard


Copyright © 2010 Robert Barnard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781439176740


August 1939

The two children sat almost motionless on their seats as the landscape through the train windows became flatter. They didn't look at the country they were passing through, perhaps feeling that was somehow dangerous or forbidden. Periodically the girl looked down on her young brother, straightening his clothes, once giving him a smile which was not returned.

When there were sounds of footsteps in the corridor the girl pricked up her ears, and the little boy looked anxiously up at her.

“It's all right,” said the girl, patting his leg. “Our papers are all in order. The man who came from Daddy said they were.”

“Why couldn't Mummy come too?” the boy asked, his face crumpled up. “It was horrible saying good-bye to her.”

“I know it was. She'll come as soon as she can get things settled,” the girl said carefully. Her words were something decided in advance, said by rote.

“He's coming!” said one of the older boys in the carriage as footsteps were heard from the next compartment.

The door opened and a cheery man with a long nose and ruddy cheeks put his face round the door.

“What have we here? Eight children with eight tickets and eight sets of papers. How did I guess? Never mind. Now, I'll never remember your names—”

“I'm Hilde Greenspan and this is my brother, J?rgen,” said the girl.

“Is that so? Very nice names too. But I think I'll do without names for the rest of you. Your papers were seen at Munich or Frankfurt when you boarded the train, were they not? So no need to—wait a moment: we're stopping.”

He must have caught the look of panic on the girl's face because as he retreated to the corridor he turned back.

“Don't worry. This happens practically every trip. Routine. I just have to go and say my piece and then we'll be on our way.”

They heard his footsteps going to the end of the corridor and a window opening, talk beginning. J?rgen looked at his sister pleadingly.

“It's all right, little brother. The man smiled at us. Only good people smile at us these days.”

Minutes later the talk stopped and the window was pulled up. No footsteps were heard. Hilde's face showed that the tension was almost unbearable. Then the train started and slowly, slowly it went through the station and out to a landscape of flat fields. Only then did the footsteps return. Hilde smiled a strained smile at her brother.

“Right. That didn't take long, did it?” said the ticket collector.

“Why is your voice funny?” asked the boy called J?rgen.

“It doesn't sound funny, I just say sometimes words that you're not expecting. You see, I don't talk German. I talk Dutch.”

“What's Dutch?”

“Well, well. How old are you, young man?”

“I'm three. And four months.”

“Then you should know that the country next to Germany when you go north is called Holland or else the Netherlands, and the people there are Dutchmen. It's a bit complicated, isn't it? You only have one word for your country and its people and somehow we seem to have three. That's the last time I say anything good about Germany. But our two languages are very similar and one day we'll be friends, with God's help. Anyway, the thing to remember, the important thing, is that now we're in Dutch territory. Holland.”

The compartment suddenly changed in character. The children, of all ages from three to fifteen, looked at one another, smiled, mouthed a brief prayer, and shuffled in their seats as if before they had been statues, but now had come to life.

“Thank you so much,” said Hilde.

“Nothing to thank me for. Now, Miss Hilde Green-span, take a good look at my funny face. You might need a bit of help when you get to Waterloo. Try to keep me in view, and if you do need something or want to know something, come and ask me. Right? No need for papers now, but you'll need them on the boat.” He started out of the compartment. Then he turned back again.

“Good luck,” he said.

The children looked at one another.

“What a nice man,” said Hilde. The other children, especially J?rgen, nodded vigorously.

“I haven't had a stranger be so nice to me for years,” said a boy in his teens.

Later, when their papers had been examined and all had been found in order, Hilde and J?rgen stood on the prow of the ferry taking them away and tried to make their eyes penetrate the sea mist.

“When are we going home, Hilde?” asked J?rgen.

“I think that's where we are going,” said Hilde. She strained her eyes still further, as if that would enable her to see the future.



Excerpted from A Stranger in the Family by Robert Barnard Copyright © 2010 by Robert Barnard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Stranger in the Family 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
TerryWeyna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Barnard has written more than 40 mysteries in his distinguished career, and has never once failed to turn out a beautifully written novel that tells an engaging story. Much like Jane Austen¿s works, Barnard¿s stories can be likened to ivory miniatures: precise, lovely, detailed. And like Austen, Barnard has a sly wit and a quiet irony that makes his tales all the more engaging.A Stranger in the Family is not a murder mystery; you will find no dead bodies in these pages, except for those who have died a natural death. But there is still plenty of suspense, as Kit Philipson tries to discover the truth behind his abduction at the age of three. It¿s a tangled story that takes Kit from his home in Glasgow following the deaths of his adoptive parents to the home of his birth mother in Leeds and ultimately to Sicily to unravel all the threads. In the process, Kit must examine his heritage as the adopted son of a Jewish refugee from World War II, deal with his natural siblings who fear that he will take away ¿their¿ share of his birth mother¿s estate upon her eventual death, and ultimately speak with a Mafioso who made huge profits from the suffering of others.Barnard can communicate such a great deal with such an economy of words that one marvels. A train journey is made vivid in a single sentence: ¿Four people in his compartment were talking into their mobiles ¿ conversations of the most indescribable banality, which made one wonder what God¿s purpose in creating language had been.¿ A character is described out in a phrase:¿[T]he old man sat up in the bed, royally genial and welcoming, wearing a dressing gown and a woolen hat that made him look like a Dickens illustration.¿ Barnard¿s talent is such that he can tell us just enough to let our imaginations finish the job perfectly well.There¿s a reason Barnard was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for excellence in mystery writing. Pick up A Stranger in the Family and find out for yourself just what a wonderful writer he is.
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nazis AND the Mafia -- well, you don't get that every day.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
British writer Robert Barnard is a heavy weight in mystery fiction. He has a closet full of awards, including the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement in mystery writing.In this book, a young man is aware of the fact that he is adopted. However, it's in his adoptive mother's dying days that he discovers both the name of his birth mother and the fact that he was not given up for adoption, but had been abducted when he was 3 years old. Vague memories begin to surface as he searches for his birth family and for the reason and circumstance of his abduction. This is a complicated story told in a very British way with focus on story elements rather than emotional content or graphic sensation. To borrow from the slang from across the pond, it's "Brilliant!".
kp9949 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read many of this author's books and thoroughly enjoyed most of them. This one seemed a little confusing at times but it was readable. A good read but not a great one. Peter Novello was kidnapped at the age of 3 on a holiday visit to Italy with his family then adopted by a couple from Scotland. How did he get to Scotland? Why was he kidnapped? Peter, now called Christopher (Kit), learns from his adopted mother, on her deathbed, that he was adopted and is given the name of his biological mother who lives in Leeds, England. He goes to meet his mother in hopes of understanding what had happened to him those many years ago. The mystery is interesting but not as strongly fleshed out as it might have been.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In Glasgow, Scotland, Kit Philipson was raised by professional parents; his mom taught school while his dad, who escaped the Nazis as an infant, was a journalist. He loved both of them and knew they loved him. However, twentyish Kit is stunned when his dying mom informs him he was adopted; his birth name is Novello. Her comments trigger long lost not quite lucid memories of a nursery and a woman baking as well as strangers taking him away from his apparent biological family. Needing to know the truth, he searches newspaper clippings for Peter Novello. He learns that in 1989 in Sicily, three years old Peter Novello was abducted. Kit deepens his quest to meet his family, but is confused by what he learns as his siblings had no idea he existed or why his biological parents who never left Leeds suddenly went to Sicily on vacation. This great tale will be on most short lists for suspense thriller of the year as everyman Peter digs deep into his past trying to connect the dots between Leeds, Sicily and Glasgow. The journey is filled with twists as nothing is quite like it seems. Readers will want to join Kit on his quest to discover why from Peter's biological bloodline. Harriet Klausner