A fast-paced and thrilling read that has the potential to drag the computer generation away from their screens.
Elliot and Shania are known for being trouble. He’s a chronic underachiever with father abandonment issues who spends most of his time trying to be tough. She’s an attention seeker and rebel – the classic care home kid. Neither are surprised when they end up in after school detention with the head teacher. Both, however, are shocked when the window is suddenly shattered by a gunshot. A fine spray of blood and some pale grey stuff that might have been part of their head teacher’s brain splatters onto the classroom floor. Unfortunately they barely have time to process the unbelievable turn of events when they hear footsteps crunching in the gravel. Whoever has just murdered their head teacher is now coming for them and it is soon clear that they are determined to eliminate all witnesses.
This is being pitched as a book for those who would rather be playing computer games and it certainly seems to fit this description. Although I have limited experience of modern computer games, the fast-paced cat and mouse action and regular violent incidents certainly feels right. (Adult gatekeepers – i.e. parents, teachers and librarians – will, however, be relieved to know that the action is dramatic and believable without being gratuitous. Indeed, the fight scenes are little different to those in Anthony Horowitz’s popular Alex Rider series while the description of blood and splattered brains aren’t any worse than in the later books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series which are often categorised for middle grade readers.)
While the action is pretty relentless throughout the book, I was pleased to find it was not at the expense of characterisation. Elliot and Shania are well rounded characters and their backstory and home life is cleverly fed into the text without in any way delaying the action. As with any good book they both develop and change as a result of their evening in detention, becoming more sympathetic along the way.
By far the most intriguing character, however, is their head teacher, Gallagher. Relatively few words are devoted to this unusual head teacher but it is more than enough to create a strong and powerful personality. If anything, I’d have liked Gallagher to have a bigger role. This is probably because I am a lover of heavily plot-led fiction and Gallagher is the conduit for much of the plot – creating the questions at the outset, raising the stakes when Elliot is convinced he’s seen the head teacher resurrected as a zombie, and ultimately providing the much-needed explanation for the assault on the school. Indeed, it is this explanation that opens the way for a sequel, the opening pages of which are included at the back of this book.
If you enjoyed this, you’ll probably be as eager as I am to read the sequel – Murder by Maths by Ali Sparkes. While you wait, I’d strongly recommend you read Senseless by Steve Cole.
Publication date: June 2018
Author’s website: Ali Sparkes