Written by Niall Leonard – Previously a screenplay writer, Niall Leonard wrote his first novel Crusher to take part in the NaNoWriMo novel-writing competition. The book was picked up by Random House and published this September.
Finn Maguire is 17 years old. He works in a fast food restaurant in London and has no job prospects. Due to the fact that he is dyslexic he cannot read or write and he has a criminal record. One evening after coming home late from work Finn finds his step-father brutally murdered. Finn was raised by this man owing to the fact that his mother left a few years ago. Now he is all alone with a mortgage and bills to pay.
Not only has his step-father been murdered but Finn finds himself the prime suspect. Since the police don’t seem to be doing anything he sets out to investigate the case himself. He doesn’t really know where to start until he discovers that his step-father was writing a screenplay about a notorious criminal called The Guvnor. It seems logical that The Guvnor would murder him to ensure that the script is never seen, so Finn sets off to The Guvnor’s house to investigate. This only leads him into further danger and soon an attempt is made on his life.
As Finn pursues his step-father’s killer he faces a number of challenges. His mother suddenly turns up at his door hoping to rekindle their relationship. Angry and unable to forgive her for deserting both him and his step-father, Finn kicks her out, ripping up the contact number she gave him. The police are convinced Finn is the killer, particularly DI Prendergast who appears to have a vendetta against him. Then there’s Zoe. Zoe is a schoolgirl who Finn first encounters while working in the fast food restaurant. She later appears on his street and asks him for a cigarette. They start a rollercoaster relationship and she begs him not to go after the Guvnor. Finn soon discovers Zoe isn’t all she seems…
A large part of the enjoyment in reading Crusher comes via the main character, Finn. Whereas many crime fiction novels follow a lead detective and their murder investigation, Crusher is told completely from Finn’s perspective. I couldn’t help but feel empathy towards this 17-year-old boy deserted by his mother who has now lost his step-father too. Aimed at a young adult audience, I think these readers will really be able to identify with Finn and think about the worries they’d face if they lost their parents. He has a real sense of angst at the prospect of paying the mortgage and the bills with his step-father gone, and this is only heightened when he loses his job at the fast food joint.
At times it’s a little hard to understand how Finn can show so little emotion when his step-father is killed. However, perhaps this is understandable if he is emotionally disconnected given all that he’s been through. Driven by revenge Finn is determined to find out who murdered his step-father no matter what the cost. He has become a young man with nothing to lose, after all. I enjoyed Finn’s fighting attitude and how he took on any obstacle that came his way, it made him a very interesting character to read about and engage with.
This book is definitely slow to begin with but I’d urge you to persevere because you won’t be disappointed. Though aimed at a younger audience Crusher will also appeal to many adults due to the action and violence. At times I felt there were a lot of coincidences, however there are so many suspects and so many plot twists you will be left constantly guessing. I look forward to what Niall Leonard writes next.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars