Ally Kennen(Marion Lloyd Books)

Scrappy is going nowhere fast. His mother has walked out on the family, his grandfather is losing the plot, his father is grumpy and obsessed with his scrap yard with little time for his family and his sister is frantically saving for a deposit on a flat so she can be out of there. Even Scrappy’s school has reached the end of the road and is being demolished as soon as the school year is over and Scrappy and his friends have taken their exams.

So when he starts getting anonymous messages daring him to rather strange things, he feels is life is finally getting a little bit more interesting. Even though he laughs them off at first, thinking they are a prank (possibly by best friend Silva), the financial rewards become too attractive to refuse. But as home life is slowly getting worse, this is mirrored in the dares which get more devious, and more dangerous. Scrappy finds himself too deep in to back down, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Ally Kennen is a master of teen thrillers; their strength lies in the fact that they take place in very ordinary settings with very ordinary people. Kennen manages to bring something really dark, really gritty, to the everyday life of people. There is a great sense of place in Quarry; you can really feel the bleakness of the scrap yard. She also has a great knack for describing the dynamics and relationships in often dysfunctional families, and boy is this one a prime example! Poor Scrappy really has not got it easy. I felt real sympathy for him, particularly when looking after his grandfather. You can really feel his conflicting feelings towards him: his love for him, but also the burden of looking after him taking its toll. I felt that Ted’s rare moments of clarity were particularly poignant, and brought to light the relationship that must have been between him and Scrappy.

The way that the worsening family situation mirrors the progressively more daring and dangerous challenges was particularly effective and successful I thought. It brought extra tension to the story and helped build the crescendo towards the climax of the story. The theme of trust is also one that was approached in an interesting way; Scrappy doubts most people as he tries to work out who Mr Mouse is, including lovely and loyal best friend Silva and is also left having to trust someone who he would not choose to rely on in other circumstances: Judge. Again his relationship with Judd brings issues of trust and prejudice into focus; although Judge is by no means a harmless character, he does suffer from people’s misjudgements.

Though we follow Scrappy’s quest to find out who his stalker is, I don’t think any reader will guess its identity and its motivation for doing so! The suspense holds to the very end, the ending definitely took me by surprise, and although in retrospect there are few clues within the story, it is only once you have put all the pieces together that you can notice it. I found the resolution satisfying but very, very bleak and depressing I have to say and the episode in the quarry, without wanting to say too much, was beyond freaky! But it is all in tone with the genre, which makes this book a great success.

This is a dark, gritty thriller which will delight enthusiasts of the genre, and would be of interest to fans of other masters of dark thrillers such as Kevin Brooks.

Sent for review by publisher