I was totally unprepared for this unexpected story.
The blurb, (which I rarely check before diving in) is about two young boys, Ben and Fab, who in 1989 do all the things youngsters do; play cricket, go yabbying and camping. They talk about all sorts of things except for how Fab’s dad hits him or what happened to the girl next door. When a new neighbour moves in, their imagination soars wondering if he’s a secret agent. The opening scene is the discovery of a drum in the local river.
It’s a moody book and the first half is pretty much about the boys’ everyday lives from Ben’s point of view with a slow build of tension and foreboding when they meet Ben’s far too friendly neighbour. Half way through the novel, Ben’s voice disappears and we’re propelled into the future almost twenty years later into Fab’s point of view. Fab still lives in the same country town, lost and alone working in a supermarket and we’re left to wonder what happened to Ben.
The second half takes on a sense of urgency and the story unfolds in a very unsettling way. I appreciated the second half far more than the first. There was much left to the readers imagination and for the reader to piece together and I liked that. The last couple of chapters was dramatic and a page turner.
The subject matter isn’t for the faint-hearted and there’s no trigger warning about child abuse. But if you can see your way through the dark subject, it’s a very decent debut.