Cover of Crusher by Niall Leonard. A boy walks down a street at night

About the Book

Title: Crusher (Crusher #1)
Published: 2012

Cover Story: Mean Streets of Wherever
Drinking Buddy:
Let’s Have a Pint
Testosterone Level:
Talky Talk:
A Day in the Life
Bonus Factors:
Dyslexia, Food Service
Bromance Status:
The Sensitive Head Basher

Cover Story: Mean Streets of Wherever

It’s nice…but this could be the cover of a hundred different books.

The Deal:

Finn ‘Crusher’ Maguire does not have a life anyone would envy. He lives in a squalid London neighborhood with his stepfather. Finn works at a fast food joint to support them both. He has dyslexia and has a very hard time reading, so a better job is not in the cards. This is just how things are, he’s not complaining. Hell, he’s in great shape. He runs all the time and does a little boxing under the name ‘Crusher.’ Things could be worse. For instance…

His father used to be kind of a big deal actor. He was on that one show, what with the doctors and all. Unfortunately, he got a reputation for being hard to work with and hasn’t had a gig in years. He sits at home all day, working on his book. He’s going to finish it one day. It’s going to be big. One of these days.

And then one evening Finn comes home and finds that someone has bashed his father’s head in with his old acting award. He’s dead. Finn is on his own.

Why one earth would someone kill the likeable old man? Certainly not for cash. Or revenge. What the hell has happened?

Wait, didn’t he say something about his book…he was investigating organized crime or something…Jesus, did he actually come across something big? Something powerful people wanted him to shut up about?

God, if only Finn had paid more attention. If only he could read a little better.

Drinking Buddy: Let’s Have a Pint

Two pints of beer cheersing

When Finn doesn’t beat his breast and weep over his stepfather’s corpse, the police take it as a sign that he’s uncaring and probably had something to do with the murder. But far from it.

This was the only father Finn has ever known, and he’s hurt. But Finn has been on the arse end of life for so long, he doesn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself. He actually has kind of a ethical crisis when he decides to skip work the next day.

Yes, his father is dead. But there’s the funeral to arrange, bills to be paid, statements to be made to the police…and a murderer to find.

And Finn will find him. Then we’ll see some bloody emotion.

Testosterone Level: Brutal

Finn’s investigation leads him to a man named McGovern. McGovern is a very naughty boy. Head of an organized crime syndicate. A businessman, millionaire, family man, and thug. Finn has evidence to believe that he’s the guy behind his father’s death.

But a man like McGovern could order Finn killed without a thought. He has half the police in England in his pocket. Finn has no evidence.

Knowing what a dumb thing he’s doing, Finn approaches McGovern as a friend. Attempts to work his way into the kingpin’s confidence. Find out his secrets. Discover what went wrong. If, indeed, McGovern would even care about a guy as pathetic as his father.

Soon, all manner of odd visitors are showing up at Finn’s place: his father’s secret girlfriend, the police, a crazed German assassin, his dad’s old drinking buddies, lawyers, and Zoe, the cute girl who got kicked out of the fast food joint where he works.

Still, beats working the fryer.

Talky Talk: A Day in the Life

I really liked Finn because the poor bastard never had a break. No money, can’t read, and he gets fired from his fast food job when they find out he’s a murder suspect. But that’s when he shines. He arranges a beautiful funeral for his father. Even though Finn does have an old conviction for drug dealing, he refuses to allow the cops to intimidate him. He confronts McGovern, something even hardened criminals would fear to do. And he takes the time to exercise an hour every day. 

A good read for kids who like action, but action with character. Maybe not a good book for struggling readers like Finn, as the British slang can be a little daunting (they gob instead of spit, have arses instead of butts, are thick instead of stupid, etc). Not as bad as an Irish book, but still.

Bonus Factor: Dyslexia

So Finn can’t really read. Maybe school could have helped, but after he stupidly tried his hand as a coke dealer, the system stopped caring about his education. Now Finn is trying to conduct a murder investigation, deal with his father’s estate (such as it is), and clear himself from a charge of patricide. And it takes him five minutes to get through a sentence. A cop tells him dyslexic is just another word for dumb.

I like that this topic is handled realistically. This isn’t an after school special, and Finn just continues to go through life like this. He struggles with the newspaper, but he’s one of the cagiest YA characters out there.

Bonus Factor: Food Service

Bowl of Indian food with naan bread next to it

Finn supports himself and his father by working at Max Snax (think McDonalds, without all the glamour). His obnoxious boss keeps quoting from the Max Snax Code of Conduct manual, and he goes home every night stinking of grease and minimum wage. Finn can’t read, but he’s still the most competent employee there. So he gets fired.

But when he does McGovern a favor, he uses his connections to get Finn hired as a dishwasher in a ritzy restaurant, one with a celebrity TV chef.

Now Finn is getting paid a living wage. The kitchen people actually like him, he feels like he’s part of the team (they all bond over terror of the head chef). He gets a free meal every shift, food made of actual organic material.

It’s not glamorous, but a guy could get used to this. Save some money, move into a nicer place, kind of make something of himself.

All he’d have to do is forget about finding his father’s murderer. And ignore what’s going on in the back room of the restaurant.

Bromance Status: The Sensitive Head Basher

I thought this would be a one-dimensional book, but Finn proved to be a guy who can hurt, can love, can cry…as he makes others hurt and love and cry.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither dollars or pounds for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.