Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2022 from Viper
There were good people in The Homes. But there were also some very, very bad ones…
A thousand unwanted children live in The Homes, a village of orphans in the Scottish Lowlands on the outskirts of Glasgow. Lesley was six before she learned that most children live with their parents. Now Lesley is twelve, and she and her best friend Jonesy live in Cottage 5, Jonesy the irrepressible spirit to Lesley’s quiet thoughtfulness.
Life is often cruel at The Homes, and suddenly it becomes much crueller. A child is found murdered. Then another. With the police unable to catch the killer, Lesley and Jonesy decide to take the matter into their own hands. But unwanted children are easy victims, and they are both in terrible danger…
The Homes is told in the voice of Lesley, a 12 year old child who lives in a children’s home where the living accommodation is based on a series of cottages each with its own house parents. In fact such a home did exist in Scotland – the Quarriers Village orphanage near Bridge of Weir, in Renfrewshire a place designed to enhance Christian values of kindness and compassion, but in the end it was a place where terrible things happened to children.
But this is a fictional story and Lesley’s voice is distinctive and compelling. She’s a bright 12 year old and this marks her out from her counterparts. So much so that she goes to a different school where her academic achievement is encouraged. At the Home, she is best pals with Jonesy, born Morag Jones, a lively, mouthy girl with irrepressible energy. The pair are inseparable.
Set in the 60’s, corporal punishment is a way of life for these girls, but nothing prepares them for the murder of one of their own. The police investigate but find neither evidence nor motive, though the girls speculate among themselves, coming up with theories, many of which are far- fetched.
The Homes is written in very simple, straightforward fashion and that really does make Lesley’s voice stand out. As she struggles with her own situation – longing for a mother who she feels has never wanted her; with a million questions to ask her granny who comes to visit, she is also determined to find out who killed the girl and disrupted what was, at least, a stable existence.
There’s an authenticity to Lesley’s voice that rings true and I think this would work well as a Y/A book, though some of the harsher realities of life and death are clearly laid out.
At its heart though this is a story of friendship and loss. When another child dies, Lesley thinks the police are useless and she and Jonesy investigate for themselves, with disastrous consequences.
JB Mylet paints a very clear picture of life in The Homes, of the lives of these girls and the absence of love that is their daily existence – although there are instances of kindness that stand out.
He captures perfectly that sense of being unwanted and the myriad emotions that pulse through 12 year old Lesley, including the sheer excitement that comes with thinking that she is on the trail of a killer.
Verdict: The Homes is a murder mystery that is told through a compelling and distinctive voice that resonates loudly. It is simply and clearly told and it examines the thoughts that go through the mind of a 12 year old girl as she contemplates what it might feel like to be loved and wanted and why, if there is a God, he would allow bad things to happen to girls who have done nothing to warrant it? It’s a sometimes raw and certainly emotional read though the sadness is often tempered with laugh out loud moments. Hugely captivating, authentic and enjoyable.
James Mylet is the author of Lex and The Homes. He loves in South West London with his wife and son.
Photo:c. Lucy Brown