Saturday 8 September 2012

Review: Crusher by Niall Leonard

The day Finn Maguire discovers his dad bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in his father's murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.

Scouring the sordid London underworld for answers, exposing dark family secrets and facing danger at every turn, Finn is about to learn that it's the people you trust who can hit you the hardest...

The market for adult crime fiction is huge, but until relatively recently you could count the number of crime books published for young adults on the fingers of one hand. Fortunately publishers and authors have obviously decided that there is a market out there for gritty young adult crime fiction, the most notable example to date being Peter Cocks' Eddie Savage books, and now author Niall Leonard brings another hugely enjoyable story to the party.

Main character Finn Maguire's life is not a particularly happy one. He has bombed out of school, his father is a washed up ex-TV actor, now wannabe writer, and the only way any food gets on the table is through the pennies Finn earns working at the local burger joint. However, even though life is pretty miserable, things get very much worse before the opening chapter comes to a close as Finn arrives home from work to find his father has been murdered. And you think that's bad - before he knows it Finn finds himself carted off to the local nick, placed into an interview room and treated as a suspect rather than a potential witness. With little evidence to suggest he was responsible Finn is soon released from custody, albeit somewhat reluctantly by the officer in charge of the investigation, at which point he decides that he is going to track down his father's murderer.

The true strength of this book is the characterisation of Finn - Niall Leonard certainly knows how to write disaffected teenagers. So many people wrongly believe teens who bomb out of school to be knife-carrying delinquents who are just hanging around on street corners waiting for the next riot to kick-off. Whilst this is true of some, the majority are honest, fiercely loyal and desperate to work and prove themselves to the world. Unfortunately for so many their situation makes this very difficult. This is exactly how Finn is, which is why he so bravely sets out to find out who murdered his father. The other characters too are well developed, and add true sparkle to the story.

Where the story falls down slightly, especially in comparison to Peter Cocks' Long Reach, is the plotting. Whilst it is exciting and fast-paced, making it almost unputdownable, there are a few glaring holes and convenient coincidences that mean that a certain degree of disbelief suspension is required. However, I would suggest that the underlying plot of 'teen out for justice' is more believable than Long Reach's 'teen being recruited as undercover cop'.

Niall Leonard never patronises his teen audience. There is violence, swearing and also a brief sex scene. It is so welcoming to read a book that hasn't been sanitised by a nervous editor or publisher - teens do drink, swear and have sex and to remove these elements from a book about an older teen would be to do the readers a disservice. For this I applaud both Niall Leonard and Doubleday.

Crusher is scheduled to be released on 13th September and my thanks go to the lovely people at Doubleday for sending me a copy to review. Please come back here on the 14th September for a guest post by Niall Leonard himself.

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