Review: The Child Who

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Child WhoThe Child Who by Simon Lelic
Published by Penguin on February 28, 2012
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 303
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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two-stars

An unimaginable crime and the man who must defend it-a probing psychological thriller from the author of A Thousand Cuts.

A chance phone call throws the biggest muder case in southern England into the hands of provincial attorney Leo Curtice. Twelve-year- old Daniel Blake stands accused of murdering an eleven-year-old girl. But who is truly responsible when one child kills another? As Curtice sets out to defend the indefensible, he soon finds himself pitted against an enraged community calling for blood. When the buildup of pressure takes a sinister turn, he fears for his wife and young daughter's safety. Must he choose between his family and the life of a damaged child? With piercing psychological insight, Lelic examines a community's response to a hideous crime.

My thoughts on this one were rather mixed. I’ll start with the good: the subject matter. The subject and the ethical questions associated with dealing with crimes by youth is fascinating to me. Given the horrid nature of his crimes, should Daniel be tried as an adult? Does his youth mean that he shouldn’t be culpable?

Reading this book really made me think about these questions and innumerable others. I also thought, too, about the reactions people had to Daniel’s crime. All of the flak that Leo took for trying to do his job and be this kid’s solicitor was ridiculous. I just fail to understand why anyone would send him hate mail or protest him for fulfilling his role in the country’s justice system.

Moving into the problems here…I think I would have preferred this if it were from the perspective of a child psychologist or something like that. Leo’s understanding of Daniel is limited, and we see through his eyes any time Daniel’s actually present. Even when he gets Daniel to talk, he doesn’t know the right questions to ask or have any analysis to bear. Even when he gets a psychologist to speak with Daniel and she diagnoses a couple of things, nothing really comes of it because Leo isn’t smart enough or isn’t the right kind of smart to do anything with it.

What really got to me, though, was the writing style. For one thing, the sentences are really simple, which could be a stylistic decision, but just made the whole thing choppy and hard to read. Also, the third person narration tended to follow along with a character, but who changed from chapter to chapter. Lots of authors use this technique, but, here, it was rather difficult to parse. I think the reason it was so troublesome for me was that, rather than using the character’s name at the beginning of each section, Lelic always refers to them merely as he or she, so I spent several sentences/paragraphs of each one trying to determine who the heck I was reading about.

On top of that, the story jumped around in time, which, again, can be used effectively but was not here. Instead of amping up the shock value or creating interesting comparisons, this method created confusion and removed the surprises. There was one twist of sorts, but I wasn’t interested enough in the characters to care about it particularly.

All of that aside, Lelic has won awards for his mystery writing, so don’t dismiss him based solely on my review. His style just doesn’t work for me personally. If you think you might like this, give it a try, or check out one of his other books. His style just doesn’t work for me personally.

One response to “Review: The Child Who”

  1. I saw this book in the library today, then I remembered you did a review on it and decided to check it out. It sound like a book which I will only read when I don’t have anything else to.

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