I have read several books in the past by Jo Bannister and I have general enjoyed her style of suspense/mysteries. So when I was in my local library I noticed this one, so as I hadn't read it I thought I must try it.
===About the author:===
Jo Bannister was born in England in 1951, she has been successfully writing novels for many years. Before she became an author she was a journalist before turning to her first love of writing. She has written over 30 novels; probably her most famous series are the Brodie Farrell, where the star is a Private Investigator.
===About the book:===
When Cassie Schofield was 15 she without any explanation or known reason just disappeared. It was on the eve of an important music exam that she never made it too. Despite a Police investigation and search nothing of her was ever seen or heard of her. No body was discovered and no one had seen anything.
Her Birmingham based family never gave up hoping that one day she would call or just turn up at their door without warning, but she never did. Six years later a film of the young homeless in London showed briefly a girl who looked like her in the background. Her Dad Lawrence still haunted by her disappearance decides he must go to London and try and find if it is her.
After liasing with the filmmakers, he travels down South to where the film was set. A no-go area called the Tinderbox. This is a dangerous area where the homeless live in derelict buildings in a kind of alternative society run by several gangs. He blusters in and is saved from one of the most violent gangs by a streetwise teenage boy. Who agrees to help him discover if his daughter is indeed in the Tinderbox.
===My thoughts on the book:===
This was a very enjoyable and interesting book in my opinion. I have read many novels by this talented author and she never fails to impress me with the quality of her work, the effort she puts into her plots and the way she gets into the minds of the characters she creates.
I have found her writing style to be easy to follow and she is great at reeling you into her story and making it compelling reading. This I found with this book and I was sad when the story was concluded. I still wanted to know what would happen in the future to these well-organised gangs from the Tinderbox.
The tragedy of people living on the streets is such a sad one, but in this novel the author offered a perspective that I had not ever considered. One in which people co-existed together in a society bound by rules and a friendship that developed from their situation. That meant they took pleasure in the little they had and shared it amongst themselves.
On discovering this book, I immediately intrigued by the title, I had no idea what the author meant by this, but it opened up a lot of possibilities in my mind. So I had to read the summary of the book on the inside cover, this although short made the book sound very interesting and was hooked on this girl's disappearance and her father's attempt to find if she was dead or alive in London.
I do not for one moment think this is a unique story. I have read similar ideas in the past even, but what the author did in my view excellently was introduce the idea that these homeless people were organised in communities. Which Lawrence the girl's father must somehow infiltrate to see if his daughter was amongst them.
The story was very well written and once I picked up the book I found it impossible to put back down. I would attribute this not only to the excellent story but the ability of the author to create believable characters, which you could have empathy with.
I thought it was wonderful the way this successful man needed the help of a streetwise teenager to survive his mission. And the intimacy that the two shared and the story that Jonah told him about how he had ended up on the street and how the gangs were keen for him to join them.
The story moved at a good pace throughout becoming quicker as the story developed. It was full of surprises, excitement and ultimately danger as Jonah and Schofield moved into the gang's territory in an effort to find his daughter. I think in my mind this was a realistic written and demonstrated the power and influence these gangs had within the Tinderbox.
The conclusion for the novel was very exciting and tense and certainly not what I was expecting. Which is always a good thing, to be surprised by what happens as it keeps you engrossed so that you are never really sure what will happen next.
What disappointed me about the book was the one unanswered question that I wanted to know the whole way through and thought at the end I would find the answer. Why did she run away in the first place? I would have loved to know. Maybe the author wanted the reader to believe that sometimes there are no reasons why we do what we do, or maybe she just wanted us to make up out own reasoning.
The main character of the book was Lawrence Schofield. He was well described but to my mind he was quite a dull character with a limited personality. I did admire his drive and determination to bring his daughter back especially in the light that his wife wasn't keen for him to try and do it.
Instead I preferred the support character namely Jonah. A lad of sixteen, who was finding his own solitary way in the Tinderbox. He was well written and described and I found her was an engaging character full of surprises, guts and common sense, brought about by his experiences on the streets.
There were other scenes involving the activities of the two main gangs. These were always interesting and showed both the ruthlessness and the compassion that existed within them. These were well described and gave you the feeling you were in them, experiencing life as they did.
I like novels that make you think and look at something you know or think you know in a totally different light. For me this book did that on a number of levels and it made me consider things differently. I had never considered a community based on respect and rules that could exist for them, my impression was they would be disorganised and anarchy being the order of the day.
The book to my disappointment was comparatively short, but in that time a well-constructed story was shared with the reader. I would have liked an epilogue but sometimes in a good book it's nice to make up for yourself what happened to them all in the future.
This is another book from the pen of Jo Bannister that I would totally recommend. I enjoyed it from start to finish as it was written intelligently and contained a subject that was very interesting and provided for me a totally different slant on it. It was exciting and written in a way you never knew what was around the next corner which added to the suspense. For me not only a great story but a thought provoking one as well.
Publisher: Seven House
About the author: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/jo-bannister
This review is written on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
Thank you for reading as always
@CPTDANIELS March 2009