CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 36. . . .May 22, 2015
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2014.
376 pp., hardcover, $21.00.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
He [Karakurt aka the Turk] placed a bowl in front of Dean, took a seat at the head of the table and, picking up a fork, speared chunks of green pepper and set them aside on a saucer. I knew what he was up to, and it had nothing to do with the laws of hospitality. He’d explained to me last summer, in the shadow of that massive shredder: It’s not enough to kill a man. You must first enter his house, eat his food, defile his wife, and slaughter his children, while he watches.
“And now,” said Karakurt, “the wheel has come full circle. I find you hiding here. It was not hard, by the way – the details of the will are on file, accessible to anyone for a modest fee. And I like this place. I like what you’ve done with it. I think it will suit my purposes very well. I will tell the locals you sold me the farm and returned to England. They are used to that. Gringos come, looking for a new life in Spain, then discover to their amazement that no one speaks English, and they cannot buy baked beans, and then they slink off home with their tales between their legs.”
Set largely in the environs of contemporary London, England, Shredder is Leonard’s third novel featuring 17-year-old Finn “Crusher” Maguire, the nickname being a carryover from Finn’s boxing days. Though the sport of boxing plays no role in the plot, the fact that Finn had learned how to box will allow readers to suspend disbelief when Finn, once again, must physically best a number of adult bad guys over the course of Shredder. While this third book can definitely be read on its own, the reading experience will be richer if the intended YA audience has encountered the two earlier novels.
In the taxonomy of crime literature, the first novel, Crusher, would have to be considered a mystery while the second, Incinerator, was a blend of the mystery and thriller genres. Shredder, however, is a full-fledged thriller in which the almost nonstop action will cause readers to wonder if Finn can possibly survive the extreme violence in which he finds himself unwillingly embroiled.
Aristotle’s statement, “Nature abhors a vacuum”, can apparently also be applied to the world of organized crime. When Joseph McGovern, aka the Guvnor, who heads up the London mob, has to take a “vacation” on the continent while things in London cool down, his absence creates a vacuum in the hierarchy of the criminal underworld. Stepping forth to claim the mantle of leadership is the mysterious figure known only as the Turk. Upon his return to London, the Guvnor’s intention is to “terminate” the Turk “with extreme prejudice” as a lesson to others who might covet his position, but more importantly, to prove to his new Russian mafia allies that he was still very much in charge. Unfortunately, Finn involuntarily finds himself right in the middle of the two men’s ruthless and bloody conflict.
Initially, Finn is kidnapped by the Turk who demands that Finn become his envoy to the Guvnor, his task being to deliver the message that the Turk wants a face-to-face meeting with the Guvnor. To “encourage” Finn to accept his “offer”, the Turk shows him a video montage of Zoe Prendergast, a girl for whom Finn has strong feelings. Finn, understanding the unspoken threat to Zoe’s life, agrees to do what the Turk has asked of him. The Guvnor decides to use his meeting with the Turk in a public location as an opportunity to assassinate his rival. What the Guvnor does not know is that the Turk has infiltrated the Guvnor’s inner circle, knows the Guvnor’s plans and has put in place his own assassination plot, one that almost succeeds, except that Finn, in trying to get out of the line of fire, accidentally saves the Guvnor’s life. Hauling Finn before him again, the Turk gives him another task, that of killing the Guvnor. To illustrate what will happen to Finn if he refuses, or fails, to kill the Guvnor, the Turk demonstrates what a shredder, an industrial grinder used to tear cars apart, could do to living flesh, such as his or that of Zoe who is now the Turk’s captive.
Shredder proves that there is no honour amongst thieves as acts of betrayal play an important role in the book’s plot. Earlier in the story, Finn had sought police protection for Zoe via Detective Sargeant Amobi, whom Finn had met during the investigation of Finn’s stepfather’s murder in Crusher. Amobi, who now worked for the National Crime Agency, showed little enthusiasm in becoming involved in the turf squabbles of a pair of crime lords as the NCA had greater concerns, namely domestic terrorism. As it turns out, the higher-ups in the NCA were actually willing to give the Turk a free pass as he was using his intelligence networks to supply them with tips about impending terrorist plots. What the NCA did not know, until Finn revealed it to them, was that the Turk, himself, was actually behind the terrorist acts which were designed to draw the NCA’ attention away from him. The Guvnor was also betrayed by his supposed Russian mafia allies who garotted him after deciding to throw their support behind the Turk.
With the Guvnor dead, Zoe rescued and the Turk on the run after the revelation of his betrayal of the NCA, Finn decides to relocate to the isolated rural Spanish property he had inherited in Crusher. Though Zoe continues with her university program in the UK, she does visit Finn frequently, and their romantic relationship flourishes, especially when, a number of months later, they learn that the Turk’s burned body had been identified in Cyprus after a shoot-out with local militia. His death means the couple no longer have to fear his coming after them, seeking revenge. But Shredded is a thriller, and thriller readers understand that Finn and Zoe will not be allowed to remain undisturbed in their Garden of Eden-like setting in Spain. Consequently, a few months later, the Turk, his death having been faked, shows up with three henchmen. Again, thriller fans recognize that, according to the genre’s “rules”, the hero must survive, but not necessarily those close to him.
So, with the publication of Shredder, have readers seen the last of Finn “Crusher” Maguire? Certainly, all the bad guys have been dispatched and any loose plot threads from the earlier two books have been dealt with. However, author Niall Leonard plays with his readers on the last page of Shredder when he has Amobi ask Finn:
“I wanted to know if you might be interested in working for us,” he said.
“You must be out of your fucking mind,” I answered.
Only time will tell if Finn changes his mind. This reader, for one, hopes he does.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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