Review - The Boy, Gary L. Clarke
Another debut Australian novel where the blurb will provide a good indication of the style of storytelling. Police procedural in concept, there's a lot going on in THE BOY, leading to a rather complicated and not always well served by procedural correctness, story of a young boy and a cop, haunted by the same unsolved multiple-murder.
Choosing to use direct speech in telling a story of positively epic detail has resulted in something that feels more visual than anything else, not always providing this reader with a pathway to connect with any characters and the story they are trying to divulge. There is so much detail, so much information, so much telling that there were points at which this reader started to feel overwhelming panic about keeping up. Strangely that also lead to small things standing out - references to race which felt wrong, those procedural elements which seemed factually incorrect.
At the core of THE BOY is an interesting idea - that of a young witness to a brutal event who is traumatised for years afterwards, and what it takes to bring somebody like that out of their self-imposed exile. To solve a cold-case, to bring somebody to justice when you're dealing with such a witness must be the hardest thing in the world, and there were aspects of that difficulty buried in THE BOY for readers who are more attuned to the style of writing used here.
Thirteen-year-old Jamie Gilroy was the sole witness to the murder of his entire family five years ago. Now in protective custody and boarding at a special-needs school, the damaged boy hasn't spoken a word since his traumatic experience. That is, until he strays from a school excursion and stumbles upon a woman's body at the mysterious Trinity Quarry.
Inspector Max Brann, also still haunted by the unsolved family slaying, takes up this latest case in the hope that young Jamie will finally be able to communicate what he saw on the night of the murders. It's a decision he may come to regret as the new case develops into a terrifying investigation in which the perceptually sensitive boy leads the normally rational profiler down a path of the mystical and the historical.
The Boy is a crime thriller that delivers clever plotting and high emotional drama in which the inspector is forced to confront startling new truths and rely on his own ingenuity and mind-game skills if he's to survive.