A blur in the sky, a brick no, a trainer, red falls to the water... There seems to be a scuffle... a hand grabbing at the dangling child. Then, with the awfulness of inevitability, the hanging child drops, gravity takes him.
A child is killed after falling from the Humber Bridge. Despite fleeing the scene, two young brothers are found guilty and sent to prison.
Upon their release they are granted one privilege only, their anonymity. Probation officer Cate Austin is responsible for Humber Boy B s reintegration into society. But the general public s anger is steadily growing, and those around her are wondering if the secret of his identity is one he actually deserves to keep.
Cate s loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. She must ask herself if a child is capable of premeditated murder.
Or is there a greater evil at play?
Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall is published by Legend Press on 1 April 2015.
Humber Boy B killed a child eight years ago. That child was ten-years-old, and so was Humber Boy B. He was christened Humber Boy B at the time of the court case, and the reader never does find out his given name. He is now known as Ben, he has been released from custody and given a new identity, a new life well away from Hull, and Cate is his probation officer.
We all know of cases like this, the most famous one being the killing of James Bulger, but there have been many children who have killed over the years, and everyone has a view about what should happen to them.
Humber Boy B tells Ben's story from different angles. The reader hears from Ben himself, and from Cate, and we are also taken back to 'the day' - the day of the murder, the day that the small child was pushed to his death from the cold steel railings of the Humber Bridge. In between these viewpoints are excerpts from a Facebook page that has been created by the dead child's mother - it's been set up with the aim of finding Humber Boy B. These excerpts are short, but so chilling. The increased venom and hate posted by users of the Facebook page set the scene for what really is a shocking ending to this story.
Ruth Dugdall draws on her own experiences as a probation officer and writes with intelligence and authenticity. This novel is shocking, it is totally gripping and it is so very chilling. The Humber Bridge is so symbolic throughout this story, it is not just the scene of the crime, it is also a symbol of Ben's other life; his home, his family, his regrets. Whilst Hull will always be home to Ben, his memories are scarred by the pain and neglect that he suffered whilst living there. His uncaring mother, his cruel step-father, the hunger, the deprivation - it was only the love of his older brother Adam that kept him sane.
Humber Boy B is both character driven and issues driven. Ruth Dugdall has populated this novel with characters who are often flawed, but always realistic. She has captured the emotions and feelings that surround cases such as this so well, from the empathic caring Cate who has her own problems to deal with, to the hate-fuelled 'Silent Friend' from Facebook.
Stories such as this will always divide people, but nothing is ever clear-cut and the shocking and very unexpected ending of Humber Boy B turns the whole story on it's head.
This is a chilling psychological thriller that really is difficult to put down, and will leave the reader thinking and considering well after the final page has been turned.
Huge thanks to Lucy from Legend Press who sent my copy for review
The Woman Before Me won the CWA Debut Dagger Award and the 2009 Luke Bitmead Bursary. Her second novel The Sacrificial Man was published in 2011.
Ruth worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade in high security prisons in Suffolk, including work with children who have been convicted of murder. Ruth's writing is heavily influenced by her professional background, providing authenticity and credibility to the crime genre.
She currently lives in Luxembourg and volunteers at a local prison.
Visit Ruth at ruthdugdall.com and follow her on Twitter @RuthDugdall