The White Mercedes
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This is a profoundly cruel book, impaling its central character, Chris, on a spike of manipulation, innocence and love. It's also an agonisingly well-written one, snaring the reader in the same trap, building the horrifying sense of inevitability from the moment it begins. Chris is unwittingly caught up in a gangland war, unsuspected in the quiet streets of his Oxford home and symbolised by the quiet menace of the white Mercedes whose driver's counterfeit identity draws him into a carefully set trap. He is led into a morass of betrayal and death in which Jenny, his girlfriend, loses her life. The sense of tragedy is felt more keenly because the reader's belief in Chris is unquestioning and because the final sentence of the book is so unbearably poignant - to the last, Chris remains unaware of the whole sickening truth. This is what the National Curriculum should be putting before our youngsters - a work of undisputed and breathtaking excellence.