Thu
Jun 29 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne

The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne follows Solomon Creed, the enigmatic hero introduced in The Searcher, who must stop a killer tied to a conspiracy stretching back over generations to the dying days of World War II.

The Boy Who Saw picks up shortly after the explosive events of 2015’s The Searcher, featuring the mysterious Solomon Creed, who doesn’t remember who he is or where he comes from. He’s now in France, bearing a white jacket with his name sewn into it, and he sets off to find Josef Engel, who made the jacket. But Joseph can offer him no answers; he has been brutally tortured and murdered, with a Star of David carved into his chest. When Commandant Benoit Amand comes upon the scene of the crime, Solomon presents an odd tableau:

Amand began to rehearse the conversation he would have with Josef’s next of kin, wondering how he could translate all this into quiet words of condolence.

“Call Marie-Claude,” he said. “Check that she’s at home, and if she is, make sure she stays there. Whoever did this might have a grudge against the family. In fact, send someone around, make sure she’s okay and tell her I’ll be along short—“

The sound made both their heads whip around.

It was music, a piano being played inside the main house.

Amand raised his gun toward the sound and glanced at Parra. “You said no one was inside.”

Indeed, shockingly, they find Solomon Creed at the piano.

Adrenaline-sharp senses took in the salon all at once—drape-softened windows, elegant antique furniture, bookcases filled with fashion magazines, and more tailor’s dummies arranged around the room like headless party guests listening to the recital being given by the tall, pale man sitting at the upright piano against the far wall. This room had been searched too.

Amand orders him to put his hands where he can see him, but Solomon continues to play. It’s then that Solomon explains who he is, and of course, the police have no choice but to take him into custody.

If you’ve read The Searcher, you already know what an oddity Solomon is. He’s got more than a few tricks up his sleeves to help him out of slippery situations, so a police station is no match for him. After he escapes, he finds his way to Josef’s granddaughter, Marie-Claude, and her seven-year-old son, Leo. Solomon is convinced he’s in France to protect Leo, but of course, Marie-Claude doesn’t trust him. But Leo does, and they set off to find the one man that can explain the origins of the white suit. It almost certainly has to do with a project that Marie-Claude is working on: finding survivors of a Nazi death camp called Die Schneider Lager, or The Tailor’s Camp.

Unfortunately, there are others looking to get their hands on that list of survivors to finish what was started so many years ago, and they have operatives everywhere, including inside the government and the police. Amand is contacted by someone that provides some insight into Solomon’s real identity, and Amand has a personal connection to Marie-Claude: he was her ex-husband Jean-Baptiste’s best friend before he beat her mercilessly and was incarcerated. But Jean-Baptiste is out now, and he wants his son and will stop at nothing to get him.

Now Solomon, Marie-Claude, and Leo are on the run, and they’re not quite sure what they’re running toward either. Solomon hopes that this man that Josef referred to will provide answers to his identity. Along the way, he discovers that he and Leo share some interesting traits after Leo comments on a brand that Solomon has on his shoulder:

“Whoa,” Leo said, studying the symbol. “That must have hurt.”

“Still does, from time to time.”

It’s important, isn’t it?”

Solomon nodded. “Yes, I think it is.” He put his shirt back on and studied the boy. “What makes you think it’s important?”

Leo glanced at his mother then leaned closer and whispered, “Because your colors change when you rub it. They go green, sometimes a little red, but green mostly and green is a good color, though not good as white. Mostly you’re white—like me.” 

“You have synesthesia,” he murmured. He turned to Leo. “Does everything have a color?”

Leo shrugged. “It’s people mainly. People and words. The color is different, depending on what sort of person they are or if it’s a nice word or not. Nice people have bright colors and bad people have muddy colors, like different birds have different feathers. The colors look like feathers to me too, soft and downy. Except they can change depending on how someone’s feeling.”

Solomon’s mind hummed with information and he smiled in happy recognition that something rate had happened—he had discovered something new about himself. “I have it too,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes. Only I don’t see colors. Synesthesia comes from the Greek words meaning together and sensation and can describe the mingling of any of the senses. With me it’s smell. I can smell emotions the same way you can see them.”

Unfortunately, they’re going to need any and every advantage they have with what’s ahead. What is the significance of the white suit, and what will happen when Solomon finds out who he really is?

When you start this one, be sure to get comfortable because Toyne never lets up on the action—but his characters never suffer for it. Solomon is one of the most interesting characters to come along since Preston and Child’s Aloysius Pendergast, and his tall, pale appearance is a bit reminiscent of him too.

The sights and sounds of France are evocative, making full use of Solomon’s unusual talent with scent, and above everything, Toyne sensitively refers to one of the most horrifying times in human history. Interspersed throughout are heartbreaking passages from Dark Material: The Devil’s Tailor: Death and Life in Die Schneider Lager, one of the books that Marie-Claude is consulting for her project. 

This is one exciting, high stakes roller coaster ride that you won’t want to put down.

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at mybookishways.com, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

Read all posts by Kristin Centorcelli for Criminal Element.

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