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Sarah Engell: Who digs up a corpse in the doom and gloom of night?

Even before Sarah Engell’s The Chinese Twin was published in Denmark, the book was sold for publication in five countries where readers stayed gripped as the main character, Eva, follows the trail of the many unexplained events that have shaken a deserted provincial town in Northern Denmark.

Sarah Engell is best known for her critically acclaimed and award-winning bestselling novels for young adults, but her most recent work, The Chinese Twin, is a dark, intense and suspenseful novel for adults.  

“I love books that are exciting in a thriller-like way, and I wanted to investigate the claustrophobia that sets in when you don’t quite know whether you can trust the people in your close circle of friends.”  

“There is something very fascinating about people who do completely insane things that are beyond all reason. How does anyone, for example, think that it’s a good idea to go to a graveyard with a shovel and dig up a corpse in the doom and gloom of night?” asks Sarah Engell rhetorically.

Is writing thrillers for adults different from writing suspense novels for young adults?  

“The basic work is exactly the same. For me, the big difference was the genre itself. I was very aware that I was writing suspense, so I was extremely keen for something to happen all the time, so the reader would want to keep turning the page.  

I also strove to end each chapter on a little cliffhanger to make you want to read just one more chapter. It’s like being on a great and spooky treasure hunt where there are clues on the pages. 

The writing itself was the same, but I was very focused on the suspense and the thrill, because it’s important that the reader can guess the answer to the riddle along the way.” explains the author.  

Did you know from the beginning that it was going to be such a chilling novel?  

“I didn’t know from the beginning that it was going to be SO chilling,” laughs Sarah Engell, who was gripped by the sinister mood of the novel while writing, so the horror filled the pages far more than she had initially anticipated. 

“The book’s plot stems from an idea I had, which in itself was rather creepy, but I intensified the effects tremendously along the way,” says the author, who is herself most frightened by the idea that people you think you know well, suddenly exhibit very different behaviour patterns than usual.  

“That people close to you have deep, dark secrets and a kind of parallel life. That you can suddenly discover you’ve been involuntarily living a lie. That is absolutely terrifying,” says Engell.  

The book takes place in a small town. Why?  

“First and foremost, I set the action in a tiny provincial town, because I wanted it to be very isolated. I wanted to create a character gallery where the people knew each other and where the police officer who shows up knows the main character, Eva, in advance. I like the overly-closeness. Also, because the downside of being so close is that it can easily tip over into something very claustrophobic. The setting is also very deserted, because I think that if the action took place in the crowded inner-city, for example, it would be much harder to get away with many of the things that happen in the book,” says Engell.  

The Chinese Twin will be released globally in English 5th August 2021.