It’s the middle of the summer holidays and a boy named Jimmy Killen has been killed. Davie believes he knows who is responsible – another boy named Zorro Craig, whose family has a well-established feud with the Killens.
Author David Almond lays his cards on the table with the very first lines of his haunting and evocative novel. ‘It’s an ordinary summer day, the day that Jimmy Killen dies and comes to life again.’ From the very beginning, we find ourselves in the middle of a strange kind of fable – one which will explore the nature of friendship, love, conflict, death, and ultimately, life.
The strange atmosphere that comes over the town when news of Jimmy’s death goes public is fascinatingly well observed, and the cost of the conflict between the two families contrasts wonderfully against the memories of a world at war, with one character in particular – an amputee named Wilf – serving as a stark reminder of the very real cost of violence.
The relationship between Jimmy and Zorro, the boy who died and the boy who is said to have killed him, is also fascinating, ultimately revealed to be something profoundly moving and quite heart-breaking.
Some aspects of the plot strain credibility, particularly in its final reveal regarding the fate of Jimmy Killen, however the book has such a vividly dreamlike atmosphere that any such reservations are soon forgotten about amidst the wonderful characterisations and fully formed world. This is a wonderful read, and strange in the best possible way.