Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Book review : This Mortal Boy - Fiona Kidman

I've just finished reading This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman, which is released by Gallic Books at the start of August. This is the second book that I have read by this author - you may also like to check out my review for All Day At The Movies, which follows several generations of a New Zealand family starting in the post-war years.

This Mortal Boy also takes a look back at the past, but this time it focuses on one incident : the fatal stabbing of a young man in a New Zealand cafe. The offender, a young Irish immigrant known as Paddy Black, is put on trial and the book follows the chaotic background to his sentencing.

The reader gets to know Paddy, or Albert by his real name, a young man just starting out in New Zealand after taking one of the cheap emigration boats over from Ireland. We see how he interacts with everyone : his landlady and her children, as well as the young men and women that he meets. He seems like one of the good guys with a decent set of moral values. The murder scene therefore comes as a complete shock, but you still get the feeling that things may not be exactly as they seem. Was he provoked? Was it an accident? Was it the rescuers turning the victim's body over that made things worse?

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter though and Paddy is put on trial. His jury seem to be pretty biased against him, especially as he is an immigrant - I could imagine the same racist overtones today in relation to a black or Asian suspect, with the idea of it being "one of them, not one of us". Back in Ireland, his mother is desperate to help but there is little that she can do from so far away.

I enjoyed following the whole examination of the death sentence and its validity, presented through an appeal, especially in a country where it has been revoked and reinstated several times. I had never heard of Paddy/Albert Black but his case really did exist and was undoubtedly very important, coming at a point when arguments for and against the death penalty were being heatedly exchanged.

It's a book that will certainly make you think. Despite having no previous knowledge of his existence, his plight touched me, especially as he was so young when everything started to go wrong.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Aardvark Bureau (1 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910709581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910709580
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to share my honest review.


  1. This sounds like an interesting read. Its quite unusual to have books set in New Zealand

  2. Thanks, Cheryl. Having grown up in New Zealand, I will definitely be buying this one and putting it at the top of my 'to read' pile.

    1. Oh wow, that's so cool ! How long did you live there ?

    2. About 21 years. It still feels like home even though it isn't any more.

  3. It must have been a bleak existence for an immigrant in New Zealand after the war. I googled his name after reading your review, it's a harrowing sad story.

    1. I was amazed I'd never heard of him or his story, but I suppose there are just too many individual cases to learn of.


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