The Silent Children
Amna K. Boheim
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Vienna, 1938: Something’s amiss at the home of young Annabel Albrecht and it’s got nothing to do with the Nazis. First, her favourite maid Eva disappears, then her friend Oskar. What’s worse, her mother is taken away, leaving Annabel to fend for herself.
London, 2004: Max receives a letter from his dying and estranged mother, Annabel, who requests his help. Following their last argument he has no desire to contact her. But his curiosity is piqued by the black and white photograph she had enclosed: a disturbing image of his mother and forgotten childhood friend, Oskar Edelstein, taken in Vienna, 1938. Stranger still are the words, ‘you knew’, scrawled on its reverse. The photograph and the message, are, his mother writes, part of the reason for her distance towards him. She wants him to find Oskar...
The photograph haunts him following his mother’s death – and there’s something about her old house in Vienna that’s not quite right. As much as Max wants to stay away, he can’t, as he uncovers his mother’s long-buried past and the secrets preserved by Annabel’s missing friends. But as Max is to discover, some children can never be completely silenced. Is he haunted by ghosts or by guilt, and will he ever escape?
The Silent Children is a gripping tale of tragedy and revenge, a modern-day ghost story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
to it for a little while at least – maybe make some changes, then sell it.’ A few tea leaves had escaped from the pot into my cup. I swilled them around with what remained of the liquid, thinking of the cellar back at the house. ‘Are you trying to read them?’ I let out a wisp of a laugh. Vivienne took the cup from my hand and placed it back in its saucer on the coffee table. I told her about my venture down into the cellar on the hunt for a paltry dustpan and brush, but I didn’t mention what I
takes one look at it and rips it away just as Maria walks in. ‘Fräulein Annabel, you mustn’t.’ Maria moves the notebook away and brings Annabel into her arms, hugging her like Eva used to. And more tears flow as Annabel’s and Maria’s bodies echo the sadness tolling around them. CHAPTER NINE Although Vivienne was doing her best to move on from my mother’s death, she continued to mourn in her own way. That evening, back at her home, she put on Verdi’s Messa da Requiem from beginning to end,
body was shaking. ‘Max, there’s no need to worry.’ She rubbed my back, then gently pulled away from me and looked at me with eyes betraying an inkling of vulnerability. ‘It’s just the house. Even with Mama gone, and that letter, I still feel this grief steeping inside me. And seeing you, just now …’ I couldn’t tell her. ‘I’ll be quite all right. And so will you.’ Just then, Matthias walked into the drawing room, scratching his forehead. ‘Weird,’ he said, ‘I popped out to grab something from
of the Danube and I slowed the car to a crawl. Within moments, the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral came into view above the heart of the First District, agitating the sickness in my stomach once more. I didn’t want to collect Oskar; I didn’t want to drive to Ober St. Veit. Yet I couldn’t disregard my mother’s house. It felt as if the house had me on a thread, gently tugging at me to return. Perhaps, I thought, Oskar felt the same. I pulled up at the Hotel Bristol, parking the car opposite the
over, disappearing out of view. Annabel watches in horror as Max drops his sticks, reaches for the wall and begins to scramble up without any fear for his own safety. Annabel’s heart lurches as though someone is trying to yank it from her body. She screams but no sound comes from her mouth. She can’t run any faster. She slips and falls, mud splattering her face and her eyes. Grappling to get up, she screams again, ‘Max. Stop!’ But by this time, Max has pulled himself up to the top of the wall.