The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne
My own copy from tbr pile
An elderly tailor is found tortured and murdered in the ancient town of Cordes. Written in blood beside the body are the words: FINISHING WHAT WAS BEGUN.
But the dead man has left a cryptic message for his granddaughter and her son, Leo – one that puts them in immediate danger.
They are forced to go on the run, accompanied by the enigmatic Solomon Creed. What began as small-town murder becomes a race to uncover a devastating secret dating from World War II. The few men who know the truth are being killed by a powerful organization, and only one man stands in its way.
Only Solomon Creed can stop the murders.
Only he can save the boy.
This is one of those novels that is so much bigger than its synopsis! I am new to Simon Toyne and the Solomon Creed series, but I am well and truly awoken now!
The novel is an impressive read and I look forward to further novels in the series.
I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for future releases.
The novel opens with Josef Engel being brutally tortured and murdered. The murder is quite graphic, and savage and you begin to wonder what has enraged someone so much that they want to eradicate Josef’s existence completely. The killer taunts Josef that he should have been killed in the past and it is well-known Josef is a holocaust survivor. The killer finishes by cutting a star of David into Josef’s chest and you are left under no illusion about the depravity of this killer.
‘Josef had not been this afraid since the war, when pain and death had been commonplace in the labour camps’
We are then briefly introduced to Solomon Creed at Madjid Lellouche’s property. It is an unusual meeting and difficult to describe. But it gives you a firm indication of Solomon’s character and how he will continue to come across on the page.
Commandant Benoit Amand of the police nationale is at the scene of vandalism. A swastika has been written on a Jewish memorial. He is disgusted by the crime, as he glances at the nearby banners celebrating 70yrs since the end of ww2.
He is deep in thought about who in the town would have done such a thing, when he is alerted that Josef Engel has been found murdered in his nearby shop.
Solomon is following vague clues, such as a label on his suit with an address in Corde-Su-Ciel. Solomon’s reasoning for memory loss is explained further on in the novel and makes for intense reading. But I loved the way the character was self-assured as he followed vague cryptic clues. Especially as that is exactly how you could summarise the man himself. I have never read a protagonist quite like Solomon before.
The novel is scattered with the real-life accounts of the holocaust written by Herman Lansky. They make for shocking reading and the harsh cruelty of the holocaust is brought alive on the page. But is Josef’s murder linked to the past? If so how?
‘The souls of the damned had been reclaimed’
Marie-Claude is Josef’s granddaughter and she has recently began to research her grandfather’s history. Beginning with the Die Schnider Lager – The Tailors Camp. She knows her grandfather was one of four individuals that somehow survived their death sentence and she is determined to track the other survivors down. This is a course of action that will have huge ramification for Marie-Claude and her young son Leo.
A course of action Josef warned her against.
‘We known that knowledge is sometimes a curse. And you can never unlearn something once it is known’ – Josef Engel
Amand receives an Interpol alert warning that Solomon Creed is highly intelligent and extremely dangerous. An alert that unravels Solomon’s past history and care under Dr Magellan. We also become aware Solomon’s headed straight towards Marie-Claude and that her and Leo are in great danger. A letter she holds and the suit Solomon wears are somehow linked to the recent murder. Marie-Claude knows she must do as her grandfather instructed and deliver the letter.
‘Do not trust this task to anyone. You must deliver it yourself’ – Josef Engel
The chapters from the perspective of Herman Lansky offer a glimpse into history and a stark reminder of the dangers of hate and fascism.
‘Only now, looking back, do I realise that Samler was not a man at all. He was something else, something that looked human but had no soul. A devil in a beautifully cut uniform’
The man he describes is Artur Samler, one of the Nazi high command. Samler ran the first camp to use a crematorium and was involved in the fuel machines program.
Yet I was growing more and more intrigued to learn how the past fitted into murder of Josef Engel. I found myself racing through the pages, not able to read quick enough!
‘If Die Schnieder Lager was hell, then Samler was the devil. And death was his command’ – Herman Lansky
Herman Lansky published his memoirs in 1949, living in Britain at the end of the war. He was found dead in a case of ‘misadventure’ after he was gassed during a fire. Everything ties back to a horrific memory of the holocaust, and the scars the men carry both physically and mentally.
The police continue their investigations, but they are slow on the uptake as they endeavour to uncover Solomon’s background first.
We become aware of a fascist modern-day group that are somehow tied to the case and seeking revenge on Marie-Claude. Leaving Leo is grave danger.
Can Solomon protect him?
The fascist group in question is the PNFL – similar to the BNP in their demand and ‘cause’ if you can even call it that. This part of the novel is incredibly timely with the rise in Nazi ‘sympathy’. However, it becomes very clear that the greatest danger is a lack of education, ignorance and manipulation. That is how these groups operate and sustain their membership.
‘You needed a police state, and a strong hand. A dictatorship. Democracy didn’t work because most people were stupid’ – Jean Baptise
Yet again the most ignorant and intolerant are usually the loudest!
This novel is phenomenal, I opened the pages and fell into the story 100%. The backstory of the holocaust and ww2 is not only insightful but historically accurate.
The writing is powerful and reflective to modern day politics. 5*
***The Ebook in currently on Kindle deal for just £1.99 in the UK***