Elisabeth Carpenter – 99 Red Balloons

99 Red Balloons, the English version of the 1983 Nena hit 99 Luftballons is not the only German influence Elisabeth Carpenter took from her own youth to her latest crime fiction thriller. RAF bases and an elderly couple that has a peculiar way to become foster parents to replace their lost child Stephanie. In the UK two girls went missing some decades apart. The first one, Zoe, of only five years old, leading to headline news and years of police investigations. The second one just recently, a girl named Grace, starts as a classic police interrogation of relatives.

Family secrets, a multitude of characters and their relationships are presented to the reader in short chapters, with Grace’s whereabouts in intermezzo chapters as a parallel narrative. with alternating protagonists. Only the family can solve this drama by coming to terms with their past. The actual police involvement is rather pushed back in this book. Cops just do their work and are in the right place, as is the legal process of catching Grace’s kidnapper.

The twists and short bites of the 99 Red Balloons story kept me engaged. Yes, I had to note down family ties to keep my mind in sync with Carpenter’s storytelling pace. Expect captivating psychological developments, traces of Stockholm Syndrome and the effect of renaming a person. Will paranoia be the new normal, just as the original 99 red balloons could cause paranoia in East Berlin?

About the author

Elisabeth (Libby) Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011. Libby was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award in 2016, and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015).

She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. Like a few characters in the book, Libby spent time in Germany as a child. She lived on an RAF base in Germany as her father was in the air force.

Libby started writing short stories in 1997 after the birth of her first child. However, life got in the way over the years, until she began writing her first novel in 2012. She wrote four other manuscripts before beginning Ninety-Nine Red Balloons in 2015.

Libby has had various occupations: company secretary, charity shop manager, and is currently a book keeper.