Wednesday 24 June 2020

Review by Cathi Rae of "Killing a Dead Man" by Siobhian R. Hodges

I wish this book had existed five years ago, when I spent my working days in a classroom with no windows and with a collection of teenage boys who were deemed, and in some cases actually were, too chaotic or troubled to manage in mainstream lessons.

On Friday afternoons, we generally abandoned any pretence of formal learning once I discovered that, if I could find the right book, my class would sit quietly and happily listen to me reading aloud to them. Story time for young men who generally towered above me.

Our criteria was uncomplicated, successful books needed to be about the lives of other young men, these lives needed to be recognisable, a lack of romance was definitely a plus and the more violence, gore, mayhem and horror the better.

Killing a Dead Man would have been an absolute hit. The story of Jordan, a very ordinary teenager except of course for the fact that he is still in ghostly contact with his twin brother, Danny, abducted and murdered when they are both ten, is a narrative that many young men will understand.

The core of the novel is the journey that Jordan undertakes when his brother tells him that he now knows who murdered him and that he expects Jordan to take revenge, hunt down and punish his killer.

Accompanied by the slightly enigmatic and menacing Mr Butch, the taxi driver, and with limited money, knowledge or even the ability to convince anyone that he is not mad, but really can communicate with the ghost of Danny, Jordan is not heroic, he is not a teen superhero, but understands that it is up to him to do the right thing.

This novel is pacy, exciting and has enough gore and violence to satisfy the reader. The language is straightforward and focuses on moving the plot forward, but is powerful enough to raise the hairs on your arms as the supernatural elements ramp up and they do.

The level of peril is well judged, spine chilling rather than disturbing and the descriptions of the sad ghosts trapped in the their own past’s is poignant.

A well-put-together addition to the Young Adult fiction genre but with enough oomph to also satisfy an adult reader.

About the reviewer
Cathi Rae is currently completing her MA in creative at Leicester University. She is a performance poet and spoken word artist and a multiple slam poetry winner and is allegedly working on her second poetry collection. Books about serial killers, unlikely heroes and blood are amongst her secret reading pleasures.

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