A masterly psychological thriller about the return of a missing child
Rising thriller-writer Anita Terpstra draws here on a true story about a Dutch boy who walked into a Berlin police station a few years ago claiming that his father had held him captive in a forest for years. This later proved to be untrue.
Different opens at a cracking pace with Alma Meester desperately searching woodland for her son Sander who, with his best friend Maarten, has gone missing during an orienteering game. Alma’s husband Linc and Sander’s older sister Iris, who were in charge of the game, lost track of them. When Maarten is found dead a few hours later, it’s clear that the boys did not simply lose their way.
After this dark opening, Terpstra switches to the present, and six years later a boy is digging a pit in a wood intended for Eelco, a fifty-year-old man with whom he’s been living in isolation for several years. In the next chapter he calmly walks out of the forest to report to a German police station, claiming to be Sander.
Where many thrillers end – with the discovery of the missing person – Different is only just getting started. Sander’s sister Iris notices immediately that Sander has changed. ‘How do we know this is Sander?’ she asks, even though both the missing child and the boy have a finger that’s one bone short. But the question has been asked and doubt is sown. What really happened, that night in the woods? Is the boy truly Sander? With her brilliantly constructed story, Terpstra has painted a compassionate picture of the absolute but lacerating love of a mother for her son.