FATHER’S LITTLE HELPER By Ronald Kelly – Reviewed

There are certain things about this book that I liked. But most of it is plain and simple and slightly stupid.

The book starts off with Richard McFarland finally having enough one Christmas morning in 1978, and, finding a shotgun, goes to a church near where his car has broken down and shoots half the parishioners.

Fourteen years later, Sonny Beechum’s fascination with true crime comes to a head when he realises he is the son of Richard McFarland and goes on a rampage, heading towards the small town of Cedar Bluff where he aims to finish his father’s work.

All well and good, we’re set up for a reverse revenge tragedy, an all-out action-fest with guns blazing. And to a certain extent that’s what we get. Sonny’s actions take him across country, killing whoever gets in his way, following the instructions of his dearly departed father, whether he appears is a ghost or a figment of Sonny’s fragmented reality.

The problem is that it’s all too easy. Sonny’s a teenager with a shotgun, and yet he’s outsmarting the idiotic police department, the FBI and all the other law enforcement officers. The FBI are unwilling to get more than a single agent involved for most of the book in case the town gets scared. When they do bring some more people in, one a highly trained former soldier, he gets killed almost instantly.

The fact is it’s too easy for Sonny to go around the country killing people indiscriminately. It’s not that easy, and this is where the book falls down. There’s barely any struggle, the teenager is running rings around the police. Our “hero” is meant to be the town Sheriff, but he’s as easily duped as all the rest, and you can’t help enjoying the idiots getting their just desserts. Sonny becomes the anti-hero and you don’t want him to caught until he’s finished with these muppets.

Also we have the problem of characters. There aren’t any worth caring about, which just makes you root for the murderer even more.

Apart from the complete lack of plausibility – throwing in the dad as adviser and Sonny’s true-crime obsession are just not enough to convince us he’s a criminal mastermind – this is a nice violent action novel. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying it’s a thriller, but there’s enough here to keep you entertained if you can forgive it its problems.

Not bad, but certainly not good. If you find a copy it’s worth reading, but I wouldn’t for a second suggest seeking it out.

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