Author – Simon Lelic
Published – Jan 2012
Genre – Crime fiction / Mystery
During the last year I heard a lot of praise for Simon Lelic. Not an author that I had noticed on the bookshop shelves but there seemed to many fans on Twitter singing his praises. Lelic’s second book, “The Facility”, was published in back in January 2011 and in paperback in September. With rave reviews from many whose views I respect it’s surprising that it never got on to my wishlist.
I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of The Child Who, Lelic’s third title, from the lovely people at Mantle – so now I had the opportunity to find out what all the fuss was about.
The first thing to say is that the writing style is exceptional. I wish I had the vocabulary to do it justice! This is someone who has taken care over what he has written and the reader reaps the rewards.
The story itself is dark. Solicitor Leo Curtice has the luck, or perhaps misfortune, to take a call from the police looking for a duty solicitor. Agreeing to take on the case Curtice discovers it’s one that’s not only the talk of the town, but the country, a young boy arrested for the brutal murder of an 11 year-old girl. Initially he’s elated, after the everyday drudgery of drunk and disorderlies, there’s a certain kudos to taking the case and regardless of that he’s a man who wants to make a difference. He does expect that there will be a certain amount of press attention but is taken aback by the reality of the situation he eventually finds himself in.
Curtice’s involvement with the case puts a strain on his family and you know from a short introduction (from his wife’s perspective) that there is a dreadful consequence. Despite everything he tries to “do the right thing” for his client – but this is not without a personal cost.
Although there is a legal context to the story it feels light on the details of the legal process, but they’re not intrinsic to the story Lelic is telling. The character of Daniel, the 12 year-old murderer, also feels sketchy, but he’s an unwilling participant in the events and seen from Curtice’s perspective he’s uncommunicative.
This isn’t really a story about the investigation of the crime or the legal shenanigans in trying to mount a defense, but more about the impact on those drawn into the events. The mystery of the story is what was the terrible price that Curtice paid through his involvement.
I’m sure we can all think of cases, certianly in the UK press, which bear some similarities to this fictional one and it’s hard to view the culprits with anything other than revulsion. However Lelic’s careful storytelling challenges the reader to consider that everyone involved becomes a victim.
Almost a 5 star read for me. I did enjoy it, although the subject matter is dark, but in the end its middle ground between literary fiction & crime fiction made it not quite enough of one or the other for me.
If you want to find out more about Simon Lelic you should read the interview with him on Reader Dad Book reviews.
Score – 4/5