Entertainment Books

Saturday 7 December 2019

Books: A very pacy thriller with a twist in the tale

The Boy That Never Was, Karen Perry, Penguin/Michael, Joseph €14.99

The Boy that Never Was
The Boy that Never Was
Karen Gillece pictured for Sunday Independent

Anne Marie Scanlon

Karen Perry is the pen name of two writers, Paul Perry and Karen Gillece who have combined their talents to bring us The Boy That Never Was, a psychological thriller told from the perspective of both Harry and Robin, a couple who lost their only child, Dillon, five years earlier when he was three. The couple, both painters, were leading an idyllic life with their small child in Tangier when the tragedy occurred.

After the death of their child the pair managed to stay married and returned to Dublin. Robin has given up painting to do a 'proper job' while Harry continues to attempt to make a living from his art.

The story kicks off in 2010, when Harry has just moved out of his studio when he gets caught up in a huge protest in the city centre. In the midst of all the chaos Harry spots a child that he thinks is his son Dillon.

Despite losing sight of the child, Harry becomes obsessed with finding Dillon again and manages to get hold of CCTV from the protest.

At first the reader has no need to doubt what Harry believes but, as the story develops, it becomes apparent that he is a truly unreliable narrator. Harry lies – he cheats on his wife, he drinks too much and he was more than a little culpable in what happened to his small son. Is his obsession with finding the child at the protest fuelled by guilt?

Of the two, Robin appears more level-headed. She has made her peace with the past and desperately wants her marriage to work, especially now, when she had given up hope of it ever happening again, that she is pregnant. Robin, when she at last finds out that her husband has been chasing a ghost, thinks, and with pretty good reason, that he is delusional.

This is a novel that moves pretty quickly, with plenty of twists in the tale as the reader's opinion of both protagonists changes rapidly as more information is divulged.

It turns out nice normal Robin has a few secrets of her own. Even regular readers of crime and thrillers should be surprised and delighted by the unexpected twists at the end.

Anne Marie Scanlon

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