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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Child Who
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2012
As an avid reader of Lelic's work I had been looking forward to his third novel and I wasn't disappointed. The Child Who takes what, in less capable hands, could be a tabloid gore-fest, the murder of a school girl by another child, and offers a complex and insightful portrayal of those involved in the case. By focusing on Leo Curtice, the solicitor tasked with defending the accused child, Lelic does not seek to provide easy answers - that is not his style - instead he forces the reader to question a number of issues surrounding the case from the frailties of the UK justice system, to the lust for public blood-letting in such cases and, more widely, the failure of society as a whole to protect its most vulnerable.

While the subject of the book is without question a difficult one, the flawed humanity of Lelic's characaters from the unfuflfilled Leo, to his conflicted wife and withdrawn teenage daughter make this book an extremely rewarding read. Narrative tension is maintained superbly throughout the novel due to the sparing use of "present day" chapters, which offer the reader tantalising hints of the dramatic impact that the case will have on Curtice and his family. Lelic's prose - always one of his strong points - is by turns searing and poetic, while all the time maintaining the pared down quality that is fast becoming his trademark.

This is less a book about why a child kills another child, and more a deeply moving and utterly affecting examination of the complex moral and societal issues surrounding such an emotive crime. The recent Guardian review was right - this really does deserve to be Lelic's breakthrough book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is about a very emotive issue, that of children who kill. In this case, Daniel Blake, a twelve year old boy who kills an eleven year old girl as she walks to school. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Leonard (Leo) Curtis, a solicitor who defends Daniel, much to the disgust of his wife, Meg. As Leo becomes more involved in Daniel's case, he experiences hate mail and his wife and daughter, Ellie, are also targeted. When Megan is spat at in a supermarket and Ellie attacked at school, she begs him to drop the case, but he is unable, or unwilling, to do so.

The author explores this storyline expertly. Does Daniel, expelled from schools, with an aggressive stepfather, mother who seems depressed to the point of apathy and father in prison, deserve sympathy? Could the warning signs have stopped what happened? As the barrister tells Leo, rather flippantly, "It's never about why. We need to condemn a little more and understand a little less. This is England, not Scandinavia." Yet Leo, personally involved, does feel sympathy with Daniel and feels he has been let down. However, when Leo's own daughter is targeted, Simon Lelic shows how difficult it is to want anything other than revenge.

Overall, this was a well paced and well written novel, with good characters. I did feel Meg over-reacted somewhat to Leo taking the case on. Despite the circumstances, it was a high profile case, but she reacted badly even before it impacted on her, or her daughter, personally. The author really captured Leo's initial nervous excitement at a case which meant something to him, before events spiralled out of control. Also, the jealousy Leo encounters perfectly described office politics, as well as the way other people reacted with either distate or outright hostility to a crime which is very hard to accept, let alone understand. Thankfully, this book is neither sensational or mawkish, but simply leaves you feeling quite sad for everyone concerned.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first Simon Lelic book I have read, therefore I can't compare with his past works. I don't need to go into the plot as this has been well documented by other reviewers, so I will just give my personal opinion.

I thought this book was ok. I say that because in the beginning I truly had high hopes for it, but as I got further into the book, I felt it was becoming rather disjointed. There were lots of gaps in the story, and rather than concentrate on Daniel Blake, who was the child murderer, and the real reasons why he killed Felicity Forbes. It was mostly about Leo Curtice, the Solicitor who took on Daniel's case and the problems he was facing in his life, because he had taken on this high profile murder case. I felt the plot was confusing with different references being made throughout each chapter, and sometimes there didn't seem to be any link. Hence the story was sometimes difficult for me to follow and I found myself getting rather confused. I felt too, that there was little substance to the story and that is the reason for my 3 star score.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 December 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's the year 2000 and a twelve year old boy has murdered an eleven year old girl. As the country is convulsed with rage and digust, Leo Curtice is appointed the boy's solicitor. His defending of the undefendable, however, makes him the subject of hatred and threatens to tear his family apart.

Inspired by the Mary Bell and James Bulger cases this intelligent thriller examines the strong emotions aroused when children kill children and the lack of humanity such events evince in the press and the public.

I enjoyed the way that Lelic focuses on the solicitor rather than the killer, as this made the book seem fresh and allows the reader to experience the same moral dilemmas as Leo does. Overall "The Child Who" does feel short and, as other reviewers have remarked, perhaps somewhat lacking in depth. It is, however, an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Simon Lelic's The Child Who manages to be both a very good thriller and an exploration of society's attitudes to children who commit terrible crimes. As a thriller there is a nail-biting plot with lots of twists and turns,an ending which will surprise you (well, it did me at any rate!), compelling characters - particularly the solicitor Leo Curtice - and vividly written scenes by an excellent prose stylist. As a novel exploring society today it asks awkward questions about nature versus nurture, social attitudes and the role of the media. It is probably more successful as a thriller and I strongly recommend it to fans of the genre. Simon Lelic has just got better and better since his first novel and I am definitely going to keep an eye out for what he writes next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A girl is murdered and a twelve year old boy is arrested. Leo - a solicitor - feels it is a step up in his career to take on the case. What he doesn't realise is that the case will affect more than his career. Children committing murder is always horrific but how many of us have criticised lawyers for taking on such cases and defending people? We all forget that anyone put on trial is guilty until proven innocent and is entitled to legal representation whatever they are accused of doing.

Leo finds out that not everyone agrees with the principle of guilty until proven innocent - even in his own family. He rows with his wife and he rows with his teenage daughter. His daughter is attacked at school and his wife is shunned in the supermarket. He starts getting hate mail. He doesn't understand at first and even finds his own colleagues and the police turning against him. But he has a job to do and he has sympathy for the young boy, Daniel, whose upbringing id far from perfect.

I found this book moving and harrowing. It asks a great many questions of its characters and its readers and provides few answers. It is uncomfortable reading for anyone who has ever condemned solicitors and barristers for defending the figures of hate who occasionally come to public attention through the crimes they commit.

My one criticism of the book is the way it kept dotting around from past to present. I didn't find it easy to follow at times and had to backtrack to work out what was happening more than once. That said it is well written and the characters are believable and I felt sympathy for all of them
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This novel deals with the highly emotive subject of the murder of a child by another child. Twelve-year-old Daniel Blake kills eleven-year-old Felicity Forbes. The local solicitor in Exeter assigned to the case, Leo Curtice, has never before handled a case anywhere near so big, nor so inflammatory. The novel does focus on the crime itself, but predominantly it concerns the impact that defending Daniel has on Leo and his family, wife Megan and fifteen-year-old daughter Ellie. Leo is absolute in his conviction that taking this case is the right thing to do, despite his family's fears of the backlash that may result. He is still plagued by thoughts of wanting to be successful in the way that his father envisaged.

This is a gripping, compelling read, with the author bravely tackling head-on a subject which arouses incredibly strong feelings, and then taking a very interesting angle on it by looking at the repercussions on the defending solicitor. The public outcry and horror at this boy and his crime is realistically and effectively portrayed. Leo makes mistakes and has flaws, but he is a sympathetic character. He tries to get to know Daniel, and attempts to get to the bottom of why he has acted as he has, what has happened to him in the past, what of his relationships with his mother, father and stepfather? But is this approach futile? And what will happen to Leo's family, can they survive the mounting strain of this case and the media frenzy it attracts? A fascinating and dramatic novel, this is definitely one to make you think, and the author leaves you wanting more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 21 December 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very easy read following the story of Leo Curtice who is the solicitor working with Daniel Blake, a 12 year old boy taken in for questioning following the murder of 15 year old Felicity Forbes. There are ample synopses available on the internet for those requiring more information than this.

The arrest, trial and aftermath whilst being part of the plot; are the not the main focus and it is actually Leo's life and family that take the forefront of this unusual story. Leo can't understand why his wife (Megan) and daughter (Ellie, of similar age to the victim) don't wish him to be involved in this case. The publicity surrounding Daniel's crime is terrific and Leo sees himself caught up in a more personal and emotional way than he initially anticipated. Turning the focus to Leo, rather than Daniel, makes it an interesting read. It is unusual and compelling and gave me an opportunity as a reader to consider what it must be like to be involved in emotive high-profile cases such as this would be.

I found all the characters well-rounded and easy to visualise and my feelings towards Leo fluctuated from sympathetic to angry; which is testament to Simon Lelic's writing ability. The two aspects of the novel I didn't like were the fluctuating timeline and also the abrupt ending that I didn't feel was suited to the rest of the novel. Lelic obviously felt this was the most suitable ending and in that case I felt it needed a time attached to it; I couldn't establish whether it was a few months or a few years after the preceding events. As for the timeline, this could be resolved with simple chapter headings so the reader knew how far ahead/before you were reading about.

Overall an enjoyable novel that is relatively fast-paced and definitely easy to read. I'd happily recommend this novel and it would encourage me to try other novels by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very engrossing book with a good deal to say about how people react to an appalling crime committed by a twelve-year-old and how it affects not only the victim and the perpetrator and their respective families, but also those in the justice system who become involved.

Simon Lelic generally writes very well in a direct and straightforward style which gives the book a real narrative drive and great power at times, I thought. He tells the story of a local solicitor who ends up representing a very young murderer with insight and understanding of those involved, and he paints a very convincing portrait of a man first caught up in a desire for celebrity and then struggling to do the decent thing but being horribly insensitive to the needs of his wife and daughter. Although one plot development in particular wasn't completely plausible, I was prepared to forgive this as Lelic uses it to examine his protagonist's attitudes thoroughly and not just as a tension-builder.

As with Rupture, Lelic's first novel, I found this a really gripping book and felt that I had a lot to think about afterward, and warmly recommend it as an involving, original and rewarding read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2012
This book was not what I expected. Maybe partly because I hadn't re-read the synopsis before I started reading the actual book (although that is only usually something I do if I can't decide what to read).

It wasn't that the book was bad, it's just it really didn't reach it's full potential. I expected much more about Daniel, and his reasoning behind the murder, and that was the part I was really interested in. Actually the whole Daniel thin felt like it had been skimmed over and the focus was much more on Leo and the effect the case had on him and his family.

It's not even that I didn't find the Leo side of things interesting I did, especially after the main event happened, but it pretty much made the fact that a child was involved in the case pointless.

There was a certain crime/mystery element but I would it rather predictable, so really that's didn't keep me hooked.

It was an easy read however, and interesting enough to keep me reading.
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