Author: Niall Leonard
Series: Crusher #1
Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
Date: September 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
Buy the Book • Goodreads
The day Finn Maguire discovers his father bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in the murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.
Trawling the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, Finn exposes dark family secrets and faces danger at every turn. But he's about to learn that it's the people you trust who can hit you the hardest...
Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E.L. James (you may have heard of her). Crusher is a tight crime novel set in West London, which follows 17 year-old Finn Maguire as he tries to discover the reason behind his father’s murder. I definitely enjoyed this debut more than I did the Fifty Shades books, although I’m not sure how reliable that benchmark is.
You can sense Leonard’s screenwriting background throughout the book. The descriptions of the settings and people were really detailed and well-imagined, but there was a certain complexity lacking with the dialogue (and indeed the characters). Despite that I was utterly engrossed in it. The suspense just pulled me in—I was nervous for Finn and it kept me wanting to read more.
Finn is the reason I enjoyed the book. He’s interesting—instead of the genius detective or well-connected journalist you usually get as a crime protagonist, he’s a dyslexic teenage drop-out, living in squalor and working a dead-end job at a fast food restaurant. He has no natural talent for solving mysteries and barrels into situations without much thought. He’s scrappy and determined to do what’s right, even though the universe (i.e. the police) seem to be conspiring against him. He also seemed emotionally disconnected, but to me it was a self-preservation instinct, considering what his life has been like so far. I was drawn to Finn and cared about what happened to him, and when he did show emotion, it gave the book real heart.
Most of the other characters are like a checklist of crime fiction: mafia boss, bad girl, know-it-all detective, even evil henchmen. We didn’t really get into their heads, which again I think is a symptom of the screenwriting—they were easily digestible but lacked true depth. They mostly served a plot purpose, mainly as red herrings. In a weird way the book benefited from it because Finn, as the main character, was the only one I really connected with as a reader and I liked him.
The plot was a little thin in places, but I enjoyed the story and I’m pleasantly suprised by variety of issues Leonard tackles. I liked all the plot twists and was surprised by the ending, so as a crime novel it worked for me. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, then this is the book for you.