Pigeon English

Stephen Kelman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-547-50060-7
Kelman's debut novel is a well-tuned if simplistic portrait of a kid's life in the housing projects of London. After 11-year-old Harri, whose family has immigrated from Ghana, sees a classmate lying dead on the sidewalk one night, Harri and his buddy, Dean Griffin, set out to solve the murder, looking for the murder weapon, interviewing suspects, and gathering evidence. But the strength of this novel is not its murder mystery; rather, it's in hearing all Harri's thoughts as he falls in love, talks to his baby sister, or expresses himself in his own idiosyncratic language. The street-talk slang that Harri uses—boring things take "donkey hours" and Nike Air trainers are "bo-styles"—is crisp and mirthful, the perfect match to his at once naïve and revealing views on things like religion and race. The main flaw is also a feature: Harri's a very well-drawn 11-year-old, and no matter how cute he and his worldview are, it's sometimes tempting to want to pat him on the head and send him along his way. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Prebound-Glued - 263 pages - 978-0-606-23981-3
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