31 July 2011

Book Review: Two Unknown by Alan Hamilton

Title: Two Unknown
Author: Alan Hamilton
Publisher: Sparkling Books
ISBN: 978-1-907230-27-1
Format: Paperback
290 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Author

Why do the words 'Two Unknown' appear on the memorial to the victims of the Charfield rail disaster?

This novel is based on that intriguing question about the mystery of two victims of a tragic train crash that occurred in 1928 in England in which sixteen people were killed. Two Unknown is a well-crafted story imagining a plausible reason as to why two bodies - said to be that of a school-age girl and boy - were never claimed.

Set in a town in the English Midlands, the novel is about a family of two adults and two children that appears outwardly to be respectable and normal. However, the shocking truth about the reality of their lives is revealed in a backstory which starts about a year before the fateful train disaster.

The family is headed by Ian Markham, a busy doctor in a successful general practice and his wife, Alice, a former nurse.The children - Jessica and David -aged thirteen, are the illegitimate twins, by another man, of the doctor's former lover who died 4 years before Ian and Alice were married.

As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that all is not right within this family. Ian's unhealthy obsession with Jessica and his obvious dislike for David, are revealed in a disturbing story of how two innocent children have to endure quiet lives of desperation.

The story explains why the children would have been on the train and also as to why their bodies were never claimed. I was impressed by the way the author created such a believable story that made me feel like these were real people and that Jessica and David were the real victims. And because the reader knows that the children are going to be killed in the horrific railway accident, it adds even more emotional impact to the heartbreaking moment when the children end up on the train.

The author obviously did a lot of extensive research (the Author's note at the end provides more information) about the accident and he has created a very believable version of what might have happened. Indeed, the details about each of the characters and the reasons for their behavior, make the story seem very real.

The story of how the children ended up on their fateful journey and why their bodies were never identified or claimed, is one that will stay with me. It's a powerful story about terrible secrets and the power that adults have over children.

Two Unknown is a story worth reading, albeit a depressing one. I was enthralled by it and I'm grateful to the author for sending me a copy.


  1. I'll bear this one in mind for when I want to read something a bit different! Flighty xx

  2. It's a compelling story! It is quite disturbing though but the author's version of what happened to the children and why their bodies were never claimed is a plausible one.