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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

An Action-Packed Thriller With A Love Story At Its Heart

When I Was Joe - Keren David

'It's one thing watching someone get killed. It's quite another talking about it.' So begins this gripping and entirely convincing story of a teenage boy who witnesses a stabbing and finds himself placed on a witness protection programme.

Two things stand out for me about this remarkably assured debut. One is the confident storytelling voice that makes a well-constructed plot seem like the easiest thing in the world. The other is how well the author, Keren David, understands the male teenage mind.

It's a novel constructed around a pressing social issue - urban knife crime - but it's so much more than that. The writing is full of wit and social observation. Male violence is carefully explored but so is female manipulation. The author lets nobody get away scot free.

But for me the biggest plus, and the biggest surprise, about When I Was Joe is that at the heart of this gritty action-packed thriller nestles a love story that is both tender and moving.