Humber B Boy a book that stayed long with me after I’ve read it. However it is also a book where I took my time before deciding to finally review it because it’s an incredibly sad story about a lost boy who had everything going against him right from the start.
Cate Austin, the probation officer featuring in this story is also present in previous books written by Ruth Dugdall, although each book seems to be a standalone novel, none of them being part of a series. I guess this made reading Humber B Boy easier, with no background needed for understanding what drives the main characters.
Humber B Boy (Ben) is 18 years old, sitting in prison for a crime committed several years ago, at the early age of 10. Now he is finally released and Cate Austin, his probation officer has the job to reintegrate him into the society.
The story alternates between the present and the past with Ben having flashbacks to the time when the whole tragic drama took place. It all started with a few kids having fun which ends up with 10 years old Noah’s death by him being pushed off the Humber Bridge. After the blame is generously passed around, the one who will be finally imprisoned for a long time is Ben, with all the clues pointing at him being the one who murdered Noah.
Over the years while he was imprisoned, people never forgot and threats abounded plenty. Now that Ben’s out, he must go into hiding for his own safety. He gets a small apartment and a chance to a new life. However no matter what he does, past does have a way of catching up to him when he least expect it.
There are many people who want to find out where Ben is hiding, and social media – especially Facebook – plays a great part in their plan of finally getting revenge on him (as if being imprisoned for 8 years from the age of 10 is not enough). And when the present finally meets the past, there is nothing short of a clash that can and will further destroy lives.
As I mentioned early on, this is a very sad book. Each of the main characters – the kids from back then – is living in families with problems, some more than others. Some children were living in a home where abuse, poverty and neglect were the norm. Throughout the book, as the history slowly unfolds in front of our eyes, we get to learn exactly what happened and why, and I have to admit, there was a major red herring in the book because we only got to learn the real truth about what really happened at the end of the book.
With all the media attention towards this old case and everyone trying to get to Ben, Cate has no choice but to work her way to get to the bottom of it all. And what she discovers will shake her to the core, because in the end, nothing is really like she was led to believe.
I enjoyed the book, however the ending left me quite disturbed, and this is the part that left me thinking hard about my review. It is also the part that had me take one start off an otherwise well deserved 5 star rating.
The book genre is listed as psychological thriller, however the ending changed all that to a psychological character driven drama. A well played one, but still, a drama. The story of a sad boy with a sad life, all because of his love for his family. When I put down the book, my first thought was: ‘what a waste’.
It is a tragedy that makes you reflect on our society and its treatment of our children. The book reminded me very much of a Charles Dickens story. I guess society hasn’t evolved that much from those times afterall.
While Humber B Boy made me think, contemplate and feel a lot, it also left me with an empty feeling, thinking of all the damaged people that are among us and how little society actually cares about them – and how evil and revengeful people can be. It is just sad.