The Two O'Clock Boy
Paperback: 432 pages
6 April 2017
What makes a good thriller - or indeed any genre of book - is its ability to captivate. Mark Hill's debut novel The Two O'Clock Boy does more than this. It takes the reader by the scruff of the neck, drags them around for a bit then summarily hurls them breathless into a corner wondering what the hell's just happened.
Yes, it really is that good.
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children's Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home's manager.Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis' favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.
Mark Hill has managed to create one of the most disturbing scenarios imaginable and riddled its layers of malevolent foreboding with characters who barely likeable. In Ray Drake, we have a man with secrets and in Flick Crowley we have a Detective Sergeant of such insecurity we have the perfectly rounded duo to work together. Darkness and light, experience and novice working in tandem.
Then there is Gordon Tallis. A man of such unimaginable nastiness his role is so beautifully and nastily drawn, it borders on the uncomfortable at times yet never to the extent where we want to stop.
Hill's real strength, though, lies in his dialogue. Fast, lemon juice sharp and undoubtedly credible, it is this - as with Michael Connelly at his finest - that makes the story zip past at missile launch pace.
The Two O'Clock Boy by Mark Hill, therefore, has just dropped nicely into my top three list for Read of the Year. An outrageous, nerve-shredding novel that will leave you guessing, quite literally, until the very last full stop.