April is National Poetry Month, and Clear Eyes, Full Shelves celebrates every year with a novel-in-verse week. Sunday started their third-annual Verse Novel Week. Be sure to check it out, especially my guest review of THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.
By Rohan Gavin
Available now from Bloomsbury
Darkus Knightley is the son of Alan Knightley, a detective who has been in a coma for years. Darkus has been studying the record of his dad's cases, eager to help him when he wakes up. But Knightley's cases weren't quite normal, and they drove him to a breakdown. It is not the best future for Darkus.
I loved the idea of KNIGHTLEY & SON, father and son detective tackling strange cases, including the current one, involving a bestselling self-help book. (It's clearly modeled after THE SECRET, but it is somewhat more sinister.) The execution never quite won me over. Based on the premise I wasn't expecting many female characters, for instance, but Darkus does have a stepsister who is smart, resourceful, and often notices the few things he misses. So she gets sidelined for most of the book, despite being a character who would clearly add something to the mix.
The father-son relationship didn't quite work for me either. Knightley keeps falling asleep due to the effects of his coma. That gets him out of the way too and leaves most of the book to Darkus alone. When they do work together, Knightley is reluctant to involve him. That's responsible parenting, but I was expecting to see them work together as a detective team.
Then, there was Darkus himself. He strives to be totally logical, like his father. This has the effect of having him behave entirely unlike most human beings. He also comes off as rather stilted. It's a deliberate choice on the part of the character, but it's a ridiculous one. Maybe I would've rolled with it when I was the age of the intended audience, but maybe not. The book does seem to realize it's a silly choice that Darkus needs to grow out of, but then it also realizes his name is silly. That doesn't change the effect of reading it.
There are several fun scenes in KNIGHTLEY & SON, including a shining moment for Tilly, the stepsister. I wish it had been more of an ensemble story (the pieces are all there!) instead of focused on Darkus, but the detective working alone isn't an unknown trope. I would give this to a 10-12 year old who likes mysteries and conspiracies. There is series potential.