THE BOY THAT NEVER WAS by Karen Perry
Details: Reading Group Monthly read
“Three-year-old Dillon vanished in the middle of the night. His father Harry can't forgive himself for not protecting his only child. Yet Harry isn't blamed by his wife Robin: she bares her own secret guilt.
Five years later, thousands of miles away, Harry spots an eight-year-old boy in a crowd - a boy he is convinced is Dillon.
Desperate to find his missing son, Harry's obsession tears apart his marriage, exposing shameful secrets and shattering the one thing he and Robin had left - trust.
Why won't Robin believe Harry? What is she hiding? Can the boy really be Dillon? And how far will Harry go to find their lost son?
The Boy That Never Was is a deeply atmospheric and masterfully crafted tale of love and loss that will chill you to the bone. Fans of Rosamund Lupton and Sophie Hannah will fall in love with this debut from Karen Perry.”
I’m always disappointed when a book doesn’t live up to my expectations but this time it hits me a little bit harder than normal. I bought nine copies of this book just before Christmas and gave one to each of my reading group members. The blurb sounded exciting and the endorsements on and in the cover were more than glowing:
“Truly remarkable” - Jeffrey Deaver
“ Gripping...this tense, unpredictable novel blends a thriller with an intimate family story to produce a most compulsive read” - John Boyne
“A beautifully written mystery is gripping stuff” - Tana French
I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to endorsements by other authors but these caught my attention since I’m both a fan and admirer of each of those writers. Buying ‘The Boy That Never Was’ appeared to be a very safe bet. Except that it wasn’t and I now find myself in the strange situation where I fervently hope my reaction to this book was personal and mood or genre related.
I had more than one issue with this book.
For starters I had the twist – at least I think it was supposed to be a twist or a surprise – worked out before I reached the half way mark of this story. I hoped the author would pull an unexpected rabbit out of her writing-hat and prove me wrong, but that didn’t happen.
I couldn’t get involved in the unravelling Robin and Harry’s relationship because I never saw their bond as being tight. Watching love die is not that hard when you never quite believed the love was there to begin with. What’s more, I didn’t like either of them; not the way they were before they lost Dillan and not the way they were portrait afterwards. As a result I wasn’t really invested in whether or not they would manage to hold it all together.
And finally, and I know this is a very personal pet peeve, the frequent use of the words ‘in that moment’ got on my nerves very early on.
Overall I liked the basic idea behind this story and, apart from the repetition mentioned above, the writing was quite good, especially for a debut. Unfortunately neither was enough for me to lose myself in the story or care about the characters or outcome. Fingers crossed my reading group members enjoyed it more than I did.