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Perry, Karen - 'The Boy That Never Was'
Hardback: 320 pages (Mar. 2014) Publisher: Michael Joseph ISBN: 1405912901

This is the story of a lost child - lost during an earthquake in Tangiers. Dillon, only three-years-old, left alone by his father for only a few minutes while he ran an errand - but that was enough time for the inconceivable to happen.

Harry and Robin are artists who have been together since their late teens, drawn to the light and wonder of Tangiers from their staid home in Dublin. Harry is immediately at home, finding inspiration and urgency in his creative outpouring whilst Robin yearns for the peace and quiet and normality of home, finding less time and inspiration to paint especially after the birth of their beloved first child. Harry cares for Dillon while Robin works in a bar, often playing host to a group of friends while Dillon sleeps in their midst.

After the earthquake Harry and Robin return to Dublin to live in the decrepit house left to Robin by her grandmother. It is the time of Ireland's financial recession and everything is harder day by day. Robin's work is cut back and Harry has to give up his precious studio space to work from home. He is haunted by Dillon, his guilt in leaving him not giving him rest. He clings on to the hope that perhaps Dillon is alive somewhere, after all his body was not found in the rubble of their old home. And then, one day, he sees Dillon in the streets of Dublin and sets out to find him, but his friends, and Robin, can't help but think it is his guilt and grief sending him into paranoia again.

There is an urgency about the writing in the form of short, clipped sentences that drag the reader through this book. It is in keeping with the nature of Harry's search and the unfolding of the story of the secrets and unspoken thoughts between Robin and Harry that are slowly eroding their relationship, but sometimes it felt unnecessary. There is also a palpable sense of loss and sadness running through the story. I couldn't help but be reminded of another lost child and the story of her parents search for her that has been in the press over the past few years but this book isn't based on that. This is a story of grief, that of parents for a lost child, of a couple for a lost relationship and also for individual lost dreams.

THE BOY THAT NEVER WAS is a good read, one that I would easily recommend. Not an easy read because the emotion of losing a child is so believably written and one that, no matter what one's personal circumstances and experiences are, will strike of chord of remembrance for most readers. This is a very accomplished first joint novel by a partnership of two writers.

Susan White, England
May 2014

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

last updated 11/05/2014 15:16