Y is for Youngsters (Mo Hayder)

for Kerrie´s alphabet in crime meme

After a three-day weekend away I´ll have to cut corners because I have just read an extremely exciting story which fits this week´s letter. Besides I cannot write a traditional review of Mo Hayder´s Gone anyway as I read it over four days without taking any notes – and left it at home. So now I am in my cottage assisted by nothing but my unreliable memory.

Mo Hayder, Gone (2010)

The fifth Jack Caffery story begins when a man steals Rose and Jonathan Bradley´s car while eleven-year-old Martha is sitting on the backseat. Initially the police are certain the thief will panick when he sees the child and leave her somewhere to be found. Soon Caffery is told by Sergeant Flea Marley, the leader of the underwater rescue team, that this has happened before, however. A man wearing a Santa mask has stolen cars with little children in but got cold feet and run off.

And from now on everything changes as Caffery and his team realize they are searching for a man who shows an uncanny interest in children.

We meet a couple of children who are or have been the victims of the masked man, but also the teenage sister of Martha. Young Miss Bradley (no, of course I don´t remember her first name) turns out to be a real teenager even though she is the vicar´s daughter so one of the first things that happens when her little sister disappears is that she tells her parents that she needs a smoke. And in true teenage fashion she squirms whenever her father tries to help by acting normally, and it is very difficult for her to give up her disparaging attitude once in a while to show that she is indeed concerned and feels very sorry for her grieving mother.

Have you noticed that we meet remarkably few teenagers in crime fiction? (Or is that just me picking the wrong books?) No, I think I am right, and I suspect that is because most writers know how difficult it is to strike the right language and the attitude. An amusing example from CrimeFest in Bristol was the Scottish writer Helen Fitzgerald who told us that she paid her teenage daughter to help her get it right.

Finally, as this also counts as my review, I can tell you that I was engrossed in the exciting drama from the very first page. Scary, but wonderfully free of graphic violence. I bought the book myself.

Have you read crime novels featuring teenagers recently? Did their language and behaviour strike you as convincing?

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in ABC meme, British, Mo Hayder, review, review 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Y is for Youngsters (Mo Hayder)

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – You know, it is really difficult to depict teenagers accurately. I have a few in my current manuscript and although they don’t play a major role in the story, I wanted to depict them reasonably accurately and it isn’t easy!

  2. Petty Witter says:

    Now that you come to mention it I can’t think of one crime novel I have read that involved teenagers – hmm, interesting.

    Also interesting is the fact that it is an 11 year old in this book, we tend to read of babies/small children being left in cars that are then stolen but never children of this age.

  3. This sounds like a very different read…the age of the child being abducted for one (many 11 year olds are already sitting in the *front* seat, since many cars have an airbag automatic cutoff for low-weight passengers). And you’re so right–not too many teenagers in crime novels. I may have to check this out, despite my squeamishness at children being hurt in any way (since you mentioned it’s free of graphic violence–yay!)

  4. I think you’re right. I don’t like adding teens in my book because of that exact thing–and I have a 15 year old son! But, they do add a nice touch. I’m reading Leigh Russel’s book right now and she has a few teens in it.

  5. Barbara says:

    I can’t imagine anyone being more difficult to depict realistically than a teenager. I may be older than dirt, but I remember my teenage years all too well. What regrets I have, for instance, when I recall how badly I treated my mother during those awful years. Besides, teens change from day to day, even hour to hour in their attitudes and language. No, this is a challenge I won’t attempt in my own writing.

  6. KerrieS says:

    Thanks for the recommendation Dorte

  7. Margot: I do what I can to avoid them. I was never a typical teenager, neither were my daughters, so they are a rather exotic species to me ;D

    Tracy: you are right, this one is unusual – in a good way.

    Elizabeth: no spoilers, but apart from all the tension and apprehension, this one was not off-limit for me.

  8. Clarissa: as they are hardly absent when it comes to real crime, it is quite conspicuous that they are so rare in crime fiction, isn´t it? So yes, I think I have a point.

    Barbara: I think we all remember, but even though we might be able to capture their language today, it will seem outdated tomorrow – so I hope I never get a brilliant idea that encludes prominent teenage characters. Well, I can always make them victims 😉

    Kerrie: you are welcome (I read Maxine´s review and was sold).

  9. Kelly says:

    Interesting review and interesting collection of comments, too. I’m not really sure what a “typical” teenage would be. My three were all different from each other. (good and bad) Thinking about it….no, I don’t seem to run into many of them in my mysteries.

  10. Kelly: I don´t know about ´typical´ either which means it is terribly difficult to get it right – but we can all see it when a writer gets it wrong, can´t we? I got the idea because a Danish blogger wrote about a Danish author who let a teenager speak like a middle-aged man.

  11. Maxine says:

    Camilla Lackberg’s The Gallows Bird is an interesting take on teenagers – one set in a reality TV show, and another (very differnent) one who is daughter of a victim.

  12. Maxine: I didn´t remember The Gallows Bird which I read before I began blogging. They may have been very realistic for the kind of teenagers who love reality shows, but I only recall that there were a lot of silly people. Well, perhaps I should be happy there aren´t too many teenagers hanging around in my favourite genre? 😉

  13. kathy d. says:

    I’m glad to read no graphic violence. I think Mo Hayder is a terrific writer, knowledgeable about world history and very interesting. However, I read her book about Japan’s siege of Nanking in 1937 and could only read half, had to skip the other half due to the graphic violence — although I know that invasion was horrific, brutal and terrible.
    This brings up my own teenagehood. I remember one incident regarding books. My household read good books, parents were readers. Always excellent literature around the house. However, when I was 15, my friends were reading really awful pulp fiction, trashy novels. I wanted to read one. My father said the book was trash. I read it anyway — “all my friends were reading it.” I agreed with him after I was finished, but I wouldn’t tell my parents that. I kept mum.

  14. Kathy: this is the first Hayder I have read, but I have an impression from various reviews that her books are very different.
    I am glad you realized your parents were right. So were mine most of the time 😉
    And as my son said recently, HIS parents had also grown much more sensible lately.

  15. Pingback: Writing About Little People | djskrimiblog

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