It started with a splash, Jimmy, homeless veteran grappling with PTSD, did his best to pretend he hadn’t heard it-the sound of something heavy falling into the Tyne at the height of an argument between two men on the riverbank. Not his fight.
Then he sees the headline: GIRL IN MISSING DAD PLEA. The girl, Carrie, reminds him of someone he lost, and this made his mind up: it’s time to stop hiding from his past. But telling Carrie, what he heard – or thought he heard-turns out to be just the beginning of the story.
The police don’t believe him, but Carrie is adamant that something awful has happened to her dad and Jimmy agrees to help her, putting himself at risk from enemies old and new.
But Jimmy has one big advantage: when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
I had seen a few good comments on this book, so thought I would request it on netgalley, I was lucky enough to be granted an eARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, thank you netgalley and #Quercusbooks.
Jimmy Mullen is a veteran from the Falklands war, he had been onboard a ship which had been hit by a projectile from an Argentinian fighter bomber,Jimmy had seen friends burn to death and others severely injured. He suffers from PTSD but has refused to seek help, he has nightmares, and hallucinations at night, and sometimes wakes screaming from his awful dreams as if he is right there again. He is recuperating with a small pension and a job stacking shelves in a supermarket. Drink is his friend, it’s the only thing that gives him solace, that wipes out or dulls some of the sights he saw. On his way home one evening from the pub, he sees a girl being slapped by her boyfriend, Jimmy intervenes, the only problem is the boyfriend is an off duty police officer, who is left lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. This results in Jimmy being sent to prison.
When Jimmy is released from prison, he finds himself homeless, divorced, and with a daughter who is now a stranger to him. His home becomes the streets, anywhere he can be out of the rain, his group of friends now consists of other homeless people, all suffering from either, drug addictions, alcoholism, mental health problems or in some cases all three things. There is a local charity called The Pit Stop run by volunteers helping the homeless providing food, clothing and showers. This is there home from home.
Jimmy is settled in his sleeping bag, in a spot under the stars one night, on the banks of the river Tyne, when he hears voices, an argument between two men, he rolled over in his sleeping bag and glanced over at where the two men were arguing, one being tall and bulky, the other not as tall, with long hair, carrying what looked like a man bag, he dismissed the argument and rolled back over, to drift into another restless nights sleep, he hears what he thinks may be a splash. Was this just another dream he had? Or did he really hear something? Jimmy decides it’s not his problem after all the the last time he had intervened in anything he had ended up in prison.
That is until he sees a young woman making a plea for news of her father, Roger Carpenter who has gone missing. Despite not knowing whether what he heard was real, or another dream. Jimmy gets some help from some more technologically minded people from The Pit Stop, to help him contact Carrie. When he finds her he tells her what he had heard and seen. Despite not knowing whether this is related to her father or not, Carrie persuades Jimmy to go to the police and give them a statement. But the police don’t seem interested in a homeless guy, who could have been drunk or high or even both. Because of the police’s lack of interest Carrie decides to contact the local press. However, when Jimmy’s photo is published, he is not a happy, and he has a very good reason, as his past catches up with him, whilst simultaneously, Carrie and Jimmy have to face dangers from digging into her fathers past. With lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing, this is a thrilling read.
The story is narrated in the past and present, showing what had happened to Jimmy before he found himself living in the streets. For a debut novel this is really well written, a thought provoking, gritty crime story. With likeable characters, Jimmy puts on a real tough cover, but you do get to see a softer side to him. The relationship and chemistry between Jimmy and Carrie. With twists and turns that work well, and you are really rooting for Jimmy.
It highlights the predicament that some ex servicemen find themselves in, they have fought for their country, but on returning they no longer have the structure that they had whilst serving, but equally they don’t fit in back home so left in a state of anomy. With PTSD as well, and in some cases this not being addressed, the person either not acknowledging it or not wanting to get help, or even the help not being there in the first place. The homeless are invisible people, who are more likely to get brutally beaten up because they are easy targets, most being misjudged as lazy, worthless. But no one wonders how they have ended up so low, what has led to this. How does society allow someone to fall so low that they feel they have nothing left to lose.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for twenty five years and considers himself an adopted Geordie. He’s a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for sixteen years. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. The Man on the Street is his first novel.