If the sign of a good book is that it lingers with you long after you read the final page, then Jane Jago’s The Wrong Hand is a great book indeed. The story centers around a sickening crime committed by two boys against an infant and the grief, loss, and trauma that follows. The narrative switches between the year leading up to the horrific event and a period in time years later. The young boys, now men, are making the most (or not) of the second chances they’ve been granted and the victim’s family is still reeling.
The young felons come from different families: one mother a careless alcoholic, the other overbearing and stern. What their upbringings do have in common is a lack of love, compassion, and nurture. The boys, Graham and Daniel, first meet when Daniel moves to Graham’s school. Their shared desire to ditch class, listlessness, and ongoing search for mindless entertainment, sees them spending their days together looking for trouble. When they finally find it, it destroys an innocent family and changes their own lives forever.
The story moves between the perspectives of the grieving family, the perpetrators and their families, and the professionals that worked on the case. Each point of view joins together to weave the whole story and offers a glimpse into the far-reaching effects of such a crime, including being hated by an entire population – not only the boys, but their families too.
The central theme of child on child violence—how to deal with the violent children and who takes responsibility—runs throughout the novel and is dealt with in more detail in one chapter where the reader is allowed an insight into the journalist’s research on child on child crimes throughout history and across the globe. To me, this portion of the book felt less like part of the story and more like the author’s research, looking perhaps to stress a point of view that lessens the blame on individual children.
Jago further chips away at the story, revealing pieces of events in a suspenseful way and the themes did hold my attention. It certainly is one for diehard crime fiction fans as it does deal with strong themes, begging the questions: are second chances always an option? And are some heartbreaks too shattering to recover from? As I said, it certainly lingers, perhaps less like the warmth of a pleasant dream and more like the unsettling feeling of a nightmare.
Jessica Sanford is a library officer in Sydney with a passion for reading and writing. She is currently undertaking a Masters of Information Studies.