Book review

The Crew by Bali Rai (2003)

A detective story with an edge.

'This ain't a novel, Jas. This is real. We ain't the sodding Famous Five!'

Well, no, the Famous Five would have kept their adventure firmly under control. They would have solved the mystery without grown-up intervention, caught the villains red-handed and amazed the smiling police with their brilliant detective work. No-one would have got hurt and there would be lashings of ice cream all round at the end of a job well done.

But like the man says, this is real. The Crew are not the Famous Five.

It isn't really a Famous Five kind of world out there any more. The Crew live in an inner city sink, swilling around with prostitutes and drug dealers on every street corner. They have no confidence in the police. They are quite likely to be mugged by their own kind every time they step out of the front door. They hardly go to school and have no particular future in mind for themselves.

No wonder they have to think quite hard what to do when they come across a bag of money sitting in the back alley. Fifteen thousand pounds. It takes them a couple of days to come round to the idea of discussing it with the few adults that they trust, and then handing it in to the police:

The copper looked shocked all of a sudden. He opened the bag and looked at the contents. My holiday money. Ellie's new trainers. Will's new decks and mixer. He picked up the phone on his desk and called someone else down.

Now, given the kind of area that they live in, it's a fair bet that that money belongs to someone fairly ruthless in the drugs business. Correct. There's a good deal of threatening behaviour, and then one of the Crew is abducted. Ellie, the youngest at fourteen.

Unfortunately, also because of the kind of area that they live in, no one is going to come forward to the police with information about Ellie's abduction. So it's down to the Crew to save their own, with a little help, but if you want to know who from, you'll have to read the book.

An excellent read. Nothing comes too easy in this story - neither the morals nor the action. Recommended.

What can I read next?

This is Bali Rai's second book. If you enjoy his particular brand of reality writing have a look at this one:

  • (un)arranged marriage

You might also like to look at anything by Keith Gray:

Or this brilliant book by David Klass:

And Philip Gross has written an excellent story, quite as tense as The Crew. Have a look at this one:

Of course, there is also the classic by Melvin Burgess:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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