His most substantial book to date, this compelling story of a teenager caught in a corrupt 1980s Care Home is a powerful study of a particularly highly-charged and distressing subject. Handled with great sensitivity and engrossing narrative drive, it is an important addition to the understanding of how childcare can go so wrong.
When Nick's mother dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the 14 year old is sent straight into a boys' home, where he finds institutional intimidation and violence keep order. After countless fights and punishments, Nick thinks life can't get any worse - but the professionally respected deputy head, Mr Creal, who has been grooming him with sweets and solace, has something much more sinister in mind. Nick has no choice but to escape. Living on the run, he falls in with a modern Fagin, a cheerful Rasta who fences stolen credit cards and car stereos. The scarring, shaming experience he suffered at the hands of Mr Creal can never quite be suppressed, and when the old hatred surfaces, bloody murder and revenge lead to an unforgettable climax.
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An exceptional novel, a tour-de-force from an outstanding writer. -
No stranger to controversy, Melvin Burgess' latest novel is as hard-hitting as ever. It is a gutsy, powerful story... This is Burgess' homage to Dickens as he updates the themes and issues of Oliver Twist. Like Dickens, this is also a moral tale - there is a good dose of retribution and the central character comes through against the odds. - The Bookseller
The contrast of Nicholas as powerless child and his adult self able to obtain some measure of retribution is powerfully done. - Sue Baker - The Bookseller
It's hard hitting, typically controversial. - Fiona Noble, The Bookseller
A couragious novel. - INIS (Ireland)
Burgess is able to show how the villain often starts as the victim. - Glasgow Herald
This is an emotional and provocative book where old hatred surfaces and murders and revenge can lead to an unforgettable climax. - Irish Post
Melvin Burgess was born in London and brought up in Surrey and Sussex. He has had a variety of jobs before becoming a full-time writer. Before his first novel, he had short stories published and a play broadcast on Radio 4. He is now regarded as one of the best writers in contemporary children's literature.