New York Times Reviews ‘The Boy in the Field’

In This Novel, a Grisly Discovery Leads to Self-Discovery

By Jenny Rosenstrach

By Margot Livesey

In the broadest sense, Margot Livesey’s exquisite novel “The Boy in the Field” is a whodunit. Who attacked this boy in the middle of the day and left him for dead in a field? What would have happened if three unsuspecting siblings walking home from school hadn’t caught a glimpse of his red sock from the road? Why this boy? Was there something suspicious about the blue car with the dented bumper that didn’t stop to help?

But the real mysteries lie elsewhere, specifically and most compellingly with the characters who are witnesses to the crime. When Hugo Price, the lead detective assigned to the attack (with a wedding ring and a close shave, he defies all stereotypes of the hard-boiled sleuth), meets with one of the siblings who discovered the boy, he summarizes the book’s thrust: “You’re wrestling with the problem of evil,” Price tells the teenage Matthew. “I’m twice your age, and I’m still wrestling with it. Nothing prepares one for the discovery that there are people who have no conscience.’”

Livesey’s writing is quiet, observant and beautifully efficient — there’s not an extra word or scene in the entire book — and yet simultaneously so cinematic, you can hear the orchestral soundtrack as you tear through the pages. Consider the discovery itself, seen through the eyes of the artistic youngest sibling, Duncan, who imagines the view from the perspective of one of the birds overhead: “Looking down at the boy lying in the grass, his blue shirt and black shorts and red legs ending in black trainers, slightly dusty, pointing at the sky. And the three of them in their white shirts, kneeling beside him, keeping vigil.”

The story is told through alternating perspectives of the three siblings, each of whom we come to love and root for. Read the full review at The New York Times.

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