Kieran Woods is a boy in Year 9 living in Nottingham. Does Kieran have Down’s Syndrome? It sounds as if he does but he denies it. He finds the body of a drowned man floating in the river Trent. The police believe the man was a homeless vagrant and victim of an accident: they couldn’t be less interested. Kieran is not so sure: he thinks the man has been murdered.
If justice is to be served it looks as if a disabled boy will have to launch his own investigation into the murder independent of the police – which is exactly what Kieran does. He has two advantages over the police. Kieran is a huge fan of the TV series CSI, so he is fully familiar with all the most advanced tools of transatlantic forensic investigation. He is also skilful at drawing, his hero being the painter L.S.Lowry. When Kieran lights on a useful piece of evidence, he can make a graphic record that renders the clue unforgettable.
Kieran does not have a happy home life: he lives with his mother and her new partner Tony, together with Tony’s 17-year-old son Ryan. Tony acts violently towards Kieran’s mother. Both Tony and his son also make it obvious that they detest Kieran. Kieran soon detects that Tony and Ryan are engaged in some form of illicit activity. But can Kieran prove what that activity is? And how will his mother react if he proves Tony to be a criminal?
This book, an otherwise enjoyable read, suffers because the context of Kieran’s schooling is unconvincingly depicted. We learn that Kieran is exempted from SATS. But no reason is given. When exemptions are given, it is usually because the pupil hasn’t reached the minimum qualifying level for that year. If this applies to Kieran we are not told why. We are told that Kieran attends a mainstream school rather than a special school. But all we learn of his education is in the hands of Miss Crane, a teaching assistant. Kieran seems to have no contact with qualified teachers. He also attends social skill classes, suggesting he is in a special school or a specialist unit in a mainstream school. It is all very confusing.
The reader (and for that matter the author) must forgive this reviewer for placing such emphasis on the school background. The rapidly changing educational environment for children with special needs has been an important thread in the social context in which such children live their lives. It could quite easily have been accurately depicted.