|Less a mystery than a character study, The Child Who examines the consequences of a child murdering a child. Leo Curtice, a provincial, is assigned the task of defending young Daniel Blake, a twelve-year-old from a troubled background who is accused of murdering Felicity Forbes, a girl near his own age. There is no doubt he did the deed, nor is there any question that he is mentally competent.
Leo gives little thought to the public's response. He is stunned that the small community in which he lives physically attacks Leo's wife Megan, and his daughter Ellie, as well as he himself. Leo becomes consumed with the case which only increases the tension in his own family. His wife and daughter are aghast that he would put the welfare of a boy already known as a troublemaker before the needs of his own family.
This terse exploration of a moral dilemma will be sure to generate much discussion among readers. There are no easy answers here. Lelic presents a situation that can be, unfortunately, easily imagined in today's society. The child is clearly a murderer, and old enough to tell right from wrong. Admittedly because of his own family situation he has issues with which most twelve-year-olds are not confronted. Yet he has committed a heinous act. According to the laws of society he must be punished; but by imprisoning him society will subject him to a situation than will only exacerbate his problems.
The other main theme of the book is the effect that Leo's handling of the case has on his own family situation. How this man's relationships with his wife and daughter are tested by his absorption in a difficult case can be examined from several different perspectives. Again opinions on the behaviors of Leo, his wife and child will sure to be varied and each have some degree of merit.
The Child Who will no doubt be a popular book club choice. Though the facts of the case are straightforward enough, the responses of various characters are convoluted. All of the characters have some legitimacy to their stances. There are no easy answers.
Those that are easily upset by child abuse will find this book difficult to read. While the author treats the subject sensitively and with the respect that it deserves, the bald fact of one child killing another is not an easy one to stomach.