Author: Niall Leonard

Publication: 2012, Delacorte

Pages: 336

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: When high school dropout Finn McGuire comes home from his dead end job at a fast food restaurant to find his dad murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear his name and find the real killer, Finn gets in close with the underworld mob boss he thinks is responsible. But with the cops shadowing him and a killer on his tail, Finn has to fight for the truth as he learns that sometimes it’s the people you care about the most who can hurt you the worst.  

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Leonard is unflinching in his portrayal of Finn – a high school dropout with no money, no prospects, and no family caught up in a world of murder and betrayal. He’s got a crappy job and a crappy house, and with his mom gone and his dad dead, he suddenly has to worry about mortgages, bank accounts and a million other things he has no clue how to handle. Leonard doesn’t flinch from the harsh details – but he also doesn’t let those harsh realities take over the story or distract from Finn’s pursuit of his father’s killer. This is a harsh and gritty London, and delving into its sordid underbelly is pure visceral pleasure.

What I Liked the Least: Finn’s reaction to his father’s death felt entirely too detached. Finn addresses that – explaining that he himself doesn’t understand why he’s so detached – and that would work if an explanation came out later in the book. But it doesn’t.

How Good was the Action? It’s a grisly adrenaline rush. There aren’t a lot of serious action scenes in this book – maybe three really good ones in all. But those three scenes are absolute kick ass. The one where Finn escapes from a car just before it’s crushed – unfreaking believable. And the fights he gets into are probably some of the purest, most intense I’ve ever come across in a YA novel.   But I’ll warn you straight up, they are bloody, blow-by-blow affairs, full of fast-paced detail. If that’s not what you’re into you may find them hard to follow. But for my money, they are off the charts amazing.  

How Engaging was the Story? For a thriller, there are moments when it drags as Finn struggles to find work and pay the bills. But the reality of this book is that Finn is not a detective. He’s a kid with minimal education, but plenty of guts and street smarts, who more or less stumbles his way into trouble. And a good part of that stumbling comes either through his job or his struggle to understand the new and impossible realities of his life as an orphan. The upshot is that, while the story might get slow in places those moments never last long, because whenever it feels like Finn’s getting bogged down in the realities of his new life you can be guaranteed that a major upheaval is just around the corner. And there are more than enough colorful characters, gritty scenes, and outsized plot twists that kept you guessing who done it right up to the end.

Overall Assessment: A gritty thriller that never leaves the hard streets of London. It’s a quick read that’s full of memorable characters, gut wrenching plot twists, and some of the best fight scenes and escapes you’ll find anywhere.

Profanity: Yes. This is a hard hitting story and Leonard doesn’t make any bones about his use of language.

Sex: Yes and some of the references are fairly graphic.

Violence: Yes. Finn’s dealing with mobsters and killers, and in a fight like that the blood’s going to flow. As with the language, Leonard doesn’t shy away from embracing the violence of this fictional world.


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