Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday Book Review - Crusher by Niall Leonard

Like most novelists, Niall Leonard pays tribute to a whole host of people in his acknowledgements.

But there’s one name that stands out from the crowd. “And above all to my beloved wife Erika,” writes Leonard, “for her boundless love, loyalty, humour, encouragement and inspiration.”

Yes, the Erika in question is EL James, whose Fifty Shades of Grey has sold well over 6 million copies in the UK and has become the country’s bestselling book ever.

Leonard is unlikely to match his wife’s sales any time soon but Crusher, his debut novel, is a gritty, fast-paced thriller for teenagers that gripped me from start to finish.

Funnily enough, it was James herself who encouraged her TV screenwriter husband (his credits include Wire in the Blood and Silent Witness) to write the book in the first place. He decided to take part in the 2011 NaNoWriMo (the annual novel writing challenge) and Crusher was the result.

The novel tells the story of teenager Finn Maguire, who returns home from his dead-end café job one day to find that his stepdad has been bludgeoned to death.

Finn has no idea who might have had a grudge against the impoverished, out-of-work actor. He is even more stunned when it turns out that the police see him as the prime suspect for the murder. As one cop tells him: "Ninety per cent of the time the person who reports finding a dead body is the murderer... You might as well have written a confession in your stepfather's blood."

Determined to prove his innocence and find out who hated his stepdad enough to murder him, Finn resolves to track the killer down. But his quest takes him into the scary heart of the London underworld and exposes dark family secrets from the past.

I’m clearly not the target audience for Crusher but Leonard, unlike many YA writers, is a brilliant at getting inside the head of a troubled teenager. Boys of 14 and up will enjoy it, but I reckon girls and adult readers will too.

Crusher by Niall Leonard (Doubleday, £12.99)

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