Suppose your mother has died, your father seems to have lost his grip on life. Keeping everything going is up to you – but you are only fourteen. Your prized possession is that bicycle, all eighteen gears and shining frame. It is your salvation. Then, it is stolen. You must get it back. The chase leads to a deserted factory – and a mystery.
This is James Clammer’s debut – and a very promising one. Aidan, the teenager through whom the story is told, comes across with an authentic voice and a real presence. He is not a totally likeable boy; a bit of a bully but he is doing his best while hiding a very real fear. The language is contemporary without jarring; the writing has a pleasing immediacy and assurance that draws the reader in suspending disbelief. And it is true, belief does have to be suspended. The immediate impression is that this is a thriller – a crime novel. On one level it is. An old man appears to have been kidnapped. But who is he – where does he come from? This is not Skellig, and Clammer does provide a resolution that is both reasonable and allows for a satisfying conclusion. However, for some there will be an awkwardness between the mix of reality and fantasy that weakens the author’s achievement. It is to his credit that the confidence with which he presents his story ensures that from the moment Aidan starts to talk the reader wants to know what happens next. I look forward to seeing this author develop his voice.