By Tim Bowler
Published by Oxford Children's Books
ISBN 978 0 19 279414 7
British writer Tim Bowler has published more than 20 novels, many of which have won awards and featured on best-seller lists all over the world.
He knows how to tell a story, and his latest work is a short, dark young adult thriller that would hold its own with best-selling adult thrillers.
Some thrillers collapse under the weight of plot and characters. However, Bowler's story and writing are sharp and totally focused.
He grabs the reader on page one and racks things up until the final pay-off.
Odd and disturbing things are happening in 15-year-old narrator Zinny's life.
His home life is a mess at the best of times, and things are taking a turn for the worse.
His father is an alcoholic and his mother has little time for her son. And both parents have secrets that they are struggling to keep away from Zinny.
After a break-in at home, Zinny realises that either his mother or father is hiding something.
He knows bad things are happening and in an attempt to find out, he gets involved with criminals who are watching the house.
When his father disappears and his mother is shot by an intruder, Zinny is plunged into a nightmare criminal world with no one left to help him.
One of the strengths of this tight, no-nonsense story is the character at its centre. Zinny is easy to relate to and actually like. His family is falling apart through no fault of his, and his struggles to keep himself afloat provide a human angle on the more hard-hitting plot that propels the story along.
Bowler's plotting is so tight and clever right from the start that readers might well read the whole book in one breathless sitting.
He doesn't cheat the reader with false starts and red-herrings, and when the reveal finally arrives, it comes as quite a surprise.
Night Runner will keep thriller fans on the edge of their seats all the way through, but readers should be warned this isn't a novel that backs away from the bleak world of crime. Zinny's story is dark and at times upsetting.
Tim Bowler has written a page-turning thriller here, but human interest is not lost in the exciting plot.
Zinny is real, and so unfortunately are the unpleasant adults who pull him down into the shadowy world of crime.
Readers will find it impossible not to root for Zinny, as one of the biggest strengths of this story is the inspiring character at its centre.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com