Humber Boy B - Ruth Dugdall
A fantastic thriller that not only keeps you guessing but asks all the right moral questions at the same time. Believable and in no way sugar-coated, Humber Boy B is a heart-breaking tale of loss brought about by shocking neglect, both in the past and in the present.

This is an edited version of the review, previously published at If These Books Could Talk

Told from multiple perspectives in the present day, and a flashback to the time of the crime simply (and effectively) titled ‘The Day Of’, Ruth Dugdall has created in ‘Humber Boy B’ a tense and chilling moral tale that questions everything from penal reform to neighbourly and community responsibility. What sets her novel apart from other similar titles is that although her professional background is obvious (Ruth previously worked in the probation service) her writing tone is never overly technical or condescending; we’re allowed to get involved in the procedural elements without feeling like an outsider and credibility is never stretched.

The pace of ‘Humber Boy B’ is consistent and fast-paced, only occasionally taking breaks as Cate deals with her home life. Her relationship with her daughter and revelations from her long-lost sister draw clever parallels with the facts behind her current case, and although some elements are obviously carried over from previous stories, there’s no sense of missing essential bits of back-story. Although the characters in Cate’s life don’t feel as well-rounded as those in Ben’s, there’s every chance that will be remedied in the next novel, especially her relationship with Oliver, the French detective who gets involved with Ben’s case and later on with Cate herself.

‘Humber Boy B’ is not an easy read, particularly if you remember the real-life Jamie Bulger case, but it’s never gruesome. In less professional hands, this novel would come across as exploitative and sensationalised, but by implementing clever narrative techniques, characters with questionable motives and a tense, chilling plot, Ruth Dugdall has produced a thriller that deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe as Lynda La Plant and Minette Walters.