The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne

The Blurb On The Back:

In the ancient town of Cordes, an elderly tailor is found tortured and murdered.

He leaves behind a cryptic message with his granddaughter and her son – one that puts them in immediate danger.

Forced to go on the run, they find themselves hunted across France, on a journey that will take them into the heart of Europe’s violent past.

As they begin to unravel a dark truth, can the enigmatic Solomon Creed save them before it’s too late. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s almost a month after the events in SOLOMON CREED.  Solomon Creed is heading to Cordes in France where he hopes to find Josef Engel, the tailor who made his suit jacket and the only lead he has to his own identity. But Solomon arrives to find that Josef – an elderly survivor of a Nazi concentration camp – has been brutally tortured and murdered and Commandant Benoît Amand is heading up the investigation into who did it, believing it to be an anti-Semitic hate crime.

Before he died, Engel left a message for his granddaughter, Marie-Claude (who has been researching her grandfather’s experiences in the camp and who lives with her precocious 7-year-old son, Léo), asking her to take a waistcoat that matches the suit jacket worn by Solomon to his friend, Otto Adelstein (a fellow camp survivor) and asking him to keep it safe until the “pale man” comes to collect it.

Convinced that he’s in Cordes to protect Léo and recognising the significance of the waistcoat, Solomon decides to help them and in doing so discovers ties between a populist, nationalistic political group and a killer who wants to fix the mistakes of the past …

The second in Simon Toyne’s SOLOMON CREED SERIES is another page-turning thriller with supernatural elements that advances Solomon’s backstory while simultaneously introducing further mysteries and has a fast-paced, well-plotted central mystery that neatly combines France’s current populist political fringe with its World War II past and sets up a third book, which I will definitely be checking out.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book is how Toyne expands upon the mystery behind Solomon’s background, specifically the introduction of the equally mysterious Dr Magellan, who claims to know the truth of who Solomon is and is clearly working to an agenda of his own. I enjoyed how Toyne plays with the reader with this, offering up both a supernatural and a more conventional explanation for who Solomon is before steering the reader in a specific direction at the book’s end.  I also though he did well in dealing with Solomon’s confusion and frustration as he tries to work out the gaps in his memory – the scenes between Solomon and Léo where Solomon tries to explain and reassure the boy while simultaneously trying to come to conclusions himself are especially well done.

The central mystery of Josef Engel’s murder is really well done – Toyne expertly plants red herrings to keep readers on their toes while also weaving in a contemporary link to France’s right-wing populist resurgence and France’s darker past during World War II.  Toyne’s especially good at switching between points of view, which keeps the action moving while bringing fresh layers into the text.  I did find the ending a little too neat in terms of wrapping everything up but it does nonetheless tie up the loose ends.

If I’m being critical then I felt that Léo’s synaesthesia was a bit of a shoe-horn to build up the supernatural element to Solomon’s story – it was well executed but you could have removed it and I wouldn’t have missed it.  Far better was Léo’s relationship with his mother, which I completely believed in – although I felt that the revelation of the identity of his father and the reasons for his father’s behaviour didn’t really ring true.

All in all though, I am very much enjoying this series and with the ending providing a set up for the next book, I will definitely be making an effort to check it out.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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