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Hayes, Sam - 'Someone Else's Son'
Paperback: 512 pages (Jan. 2011) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 075534989X

SOMEONE ELSE'S SON is an emotionally challenging read, about Carrie, a busy celebrity mother, Brody, her blind ex-husband, who is a gifted maths professor, and Max, their troubled and sensitive son, who struggles with bullying and not being able to accept himself as normal. After attending an exclusive boarding school, and leaving because he couldn't fit in, Max swaps the luxuries of privilege for an extremely violent, crime-ridden local comprehensive school that is situated near a very nasty housing estate in London and it isn't long before trouble comes looking for him there as well. Constantly seeking some kind of acknowledgement from either of his parents, but pretty much being ignored by both of them, Max finds it impossible to make friends and suffers the taunts of his peers on a daily basis. It is hard hitting, gut wrenching and, at times, downright soul destroying, to follow the story of this young life and how it is tragically ended one day in the playground, by a knife-wielding gang.

Max has one close friend, Dayna. Like him, she is ostracized from the groups at school. Her home life is similar to Max's in that she is ignored and neglected by her drunk, lazy stepfather and downtrodden mother. However, Max and Dayna come from different worlds - him from privilege and money, her from extreme poverty and the misery of a rough council estate. He never tells her who his mother is and he dies in her arms in the playground.

Carrie, who hosts a TV chat show aimed at solving crimes and highlighting social issues, now finds her own family at the centre of attention. Vowing to find out the truth about the death of her only son, she niggles away at the police and then takes matters into her own hands and invites Dayna onto her show…

Superbly written and impossible to put down once you've started it, SOMEONE ELSE'S SON highlights the tragic fact that money doesn't necessarily bring you happiness and that bullying/neglect can affect anyone, regardless of their social status. Everyone just wants to fit in, be accepted and thought of as normal, and the consequences for those that struggle to find acceptance by their peers can be devastating.

Sam Hayes's latest novel is truly superb. Just make sure that you have a box of tissues at the ready and don't finish it on the bus.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
May 2011

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/05/2011 12:57