Tony has already written a great review for this, shortly after the hardback came out last summer. But as it’s new in paperback, recently nominated for the Carnegie, and one of those books that deserves a decent amount of attention, I feel it can’t do any harm to add a second review.
Smart is a remarkable debut and a very different kind of detective tale. When a homeless man is found dead in the river Trent, the police presume he must have just fallen in. But Kieran Woods, a CSI fan with an unusual, misunderstood intelligence, thinks it might be murder and takes on the case. As he investigates, he takes down all the clues he encounters in the form of drawings inspired by his artistic hero, L. S. Lowry. Soon his quest to solve one mystery ends up linking to another personal mission. He hasn’t seen his grandmother for a long time—not since his abusive step father, Tony, banned her from the house. Where is she? And who are the strange men who keep coming to visit Tony? After much intrigue, the strands of the story tie together beautifully in an exciting, heart-warming denouement.
Like a Lowry painting, this book is often sad but ultimately uplifting and packing a very clever sense of humour. Kieran is a wonderful hero and narrator. There is clearly something ‘different’ about the way he thinks and interacts with people. He has a special teaching assistant assigned to him at school and is frequently bullied by other pupils. But, though we presume his difference to be some degree of autism, it is never made explicit. He is simply smart.