256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
Imagine watching your old town emerge from the depths of a lake – a town that was drowned seven years ago taking untold secrets with it, secrets that were thought to have been hidden forever but now, as the water drops, are rising and threatening to reveal mysteries, crimes and their perpetrators.
Will, and twins J and Dar are fascinated as an old house starts to appear and despite Will’s misgivings, they decide to swim out to explore it. But when they discover a large stash of cash in the walls and then human remains, they expose old secrets that were presumed buried forever. Could the bones be those of Will’s dad who, along with eight others, disappeared seven years ago? Should they keep the money a secret because J sees it as the twins’ path to financial freedom from their deadbeat, alcoholic, broken dad and Will sees it as a ticket to somewhere else for his mum and him, away from the memories and their current money problems? And who else wants it so badly they are willing to beat up kids, kidnap Dar and trash houses?
The title Scar Town has a lot more meaning than just being short for Scarborough as old wounds that have thin scars are opened up.
As with his other suspense thrillers like Cop and Robber and Detention, Bancks has again written an un-putdownable read that races along and puts the reader firmly in the position of having to consider what they would do if they were in that situation. By creating characters that are, in so many ways, just like them, Bancks hooks the reader into being more than just an observer, and places them in the position of having to take a stance. Would they go to the police, which is what Will wants to do, because, after all, his father was the local policeman before his mysterious disappearance, or would their loyalty to their friends persuade them to follow the belligerent, seemingly fearless J? Can kids outsmart crooks or would adult help be better? But which adults can you trust?
Apart from sheer entertainment, one of the purposes of contemporary realistic fiction is to place the reader in situations where they can experience life vicariously and consider their own responses, and although they might not be exactly in Will’s situation, there will be times when they are torn between friendship and doing what they know to be the smart thing. Thus, this is a perfect example of this year’s CBCA Book week theme of Read. Grow. Inspire.