Cottrell Boyce is an accomplished screenwriter (Welcome to Sarajevo, Hilary and Jackie etc as well as a stint on Coronation Street) so the confidence, vitality and wit of this ambitiously structured first novel astonish the reader less perhaps than his ability to pitch his story at a level that is accessible to young readers whilst also engaging, amusing and challenging older readers.
10-year-old Damian and his older brother Anthony are grieving for their mother. Their father still appears to be in shock. Events are narrated by Damian who takes things rather literally – if people at the hospice where his mother died are called saints, so they must be. Google is consulted in the course of his researches and he becomes an expert on the lives of saints in all their martyred glory. His father describes Damian as ‘excellent’ and excellent he must therefore try to be – with a touching tenacity and ferocious logic that take him into extreme situations. Fortunately, the saints about whom he knows so much, appear to be looking out for him.
When Damian finds a satchel full of money (over a quarter of a million sterling) by a railway track, it seems that his prayers for something good have been answered. The ensuing difficulties at home and at school as the boys try to dispose of the lucre are both funny and poignant. What, after all, is money for? Cottrell Boyce is a writer who can engage young readers in such questions whilst also making them weep with laughter.