The day Finn Maguire discovers his father bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in the murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him. Trawling the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, Finn exposes dark family secrets and faces danger at every turn. But he’s about to learn that it’s the people you trust who can hit you the hardest…
With more holes in the plot line than a tramp’s socks and some utterly implausible coincidences, I can still say that I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult debut thriller by Niall Leonard! At numerous points in the story you are thinking that certain scenarios just could not possibly happen and are incredibly far-fetched, but you can’t help yourself being sucked into the ludicrous plot by the sheer strength of Leonard’s characterisation of confused teenager Finn Maguire, an extremely well-drawn and empathetic character.
Finn is a character displaying all the teenage angst that a rift between parents can cause to a child, with a background of disruptive behaviour that has brought him to the attention of police, but who is obviously a bright and resourceful kid trying to get himself back on the straight and narrow. He has been hampered throughout his life by his dyslexia, but this has provided him with the ability to think on his feet, to use his common sense and invested him with the strength and determination to attempt to track down his father’s murderer. As Finn turns into a contemporary Sherlock Holmes with attitude, seeking answers to the death of his father, he is drawn into a murky underworld overseen by a notorious figure known as ‘The Guvnor’ who epitomises every cliche one could apply to a Gangland boss. Through Finn’s incredibly fortuitous rescue of said Guvnor’s drowning child he finds himself in a position of constant peril punctuated by human trafficking, a celebrity chef, a Death Row killer, a German hitman, dead actors, psychotic women and many other brilliantly implausible moments of danger. Finn himself has no compunction to rendering dead those stupid enough to take him on but always narrowly avoids any criminal responsibility due to the idiocy of his police nemesis Prendergast who has his own special relationship with the Guvnor. Naturally there is time enough in the plot, between Finn keeping himself alive, for a little teenage dalliance with the mysterious Zoe who is definitely not all that she appears to be, to add to the maelstrom of confusion for our erstwhile hero. Maybe as an adult reader the holes in the plot were too self-evident but I loved the way the author at one point actually draws attention to one particular gaffe asking why a character could turn up in England undetected for which no answer could be offered- yes, how did he turn up in England undetected? But alas this is just one of many questions that go unanswered in terms of plot and luckily for Leonard he does have a secret weapon to rescue the book and that is Finn. I think this characterisation pretty much saves the book from just being compelling tosh and the fact that I read it in a couple of sittings, even though my sensible head was saying “No, that couldn’t possibly happen” bears testament to Finn being its saving grace. There is also a fair smattering of pretty fruity language and raw violence that although is perfectly attuned to the nature of the story line may cause some consternation as to this being marketed as a young adult read (not for the more sensitive teenage reader) and with these more adult themes, the book could work quite well as a crossover as demonstrated by some major names in the crime genre (Reichs, Patterson, Coben et al) who are also tapping this additional market.
All in all a good read as you cannot help but be strangely drawn to find out what happens next, but a book that may make you question why you want to!
‘Crusher’ published by Doubleday on 13th September 2012
(Thanks to Random House for supplying an advance reading copy)