March 2006

Avenging a sister’s murder

By Kevin Brooks
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England is a land of opposites. Readers have a choice between the lighthearted world of say, P.G. Wodehouse, on the one hand or the bleak view of someone like Charles Dickens on the other. Kevin Brooks' novel for teens, The Road of the Dead, takes the darker perspective. The son of a gypsy languishing in prison, Reuben Ford lives in a London auto junkyard with his mother, brother and sister, trying to get by. Life is hard, but death is even harder, and when his sister is brutally raped and murdered, he and his brother journey to an isolated village in the desolate moors of the south to find answers that the police won't provide.

Reuben's 17-year-old brother Cole reluctantly lets his younger sibling accompany him. Cole has vengeance on his mind, and Reuben at his mother's urging is going to make sure the gun Cole has in his backpack stays in his backpack. Reuben is scared, though, because he knows his sister's killer is already dead, and he doesn't know how Cole will be able to find a dead man. Reuben knows this because he's psychic.

Reuben's supernatural abilities seem appropriate considering the setting. Dartmoor is a desolate place, with lonely windswept plains and giant stones, or tors, sticking out of the ground like the gravestones of giants. The boys' destination, the village of Lychcombe, is straight out of a Conan Doyle novel, with suspicious, belligerent townsfolk, a group of gypsies camped outside town for no apparent reason and a mysterious landowner who seems to control everything. It will take all of Cole's aggressive snooping and Reuben's special abilities to find the person or people responsible for their sister's death.

The Road of the Dead is a gripping murder mystery that will appeal to teen readers who appreciate dark, atmospheric stories and can handle the gritty nature of Brooks' tale, which includes coarse language and brutal violence. Already a rising star in young adult fiction for novels such as Lucas and Kissing the Rain, Brooks adds another compelling entry to his impressive body of work.


James Neal Webb is a copyright researcher at Vanderbilt University.

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The Road of the Dead

The Road of the Dead

By Kevin Brooks
ISBN 9780439786232

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