In Hamelin’s Child, Debbie Bennett does not shirk from exploring the issues of male prostitution and drug abuse. This dark novel of child abduction and rent boys is the story of Michael, an ordinary middle-class boy, who is drugged and abducted on his seventeenth birthday. Three weeks later he wakes up as Mikey, a heroin addict who is required to service male clients. At first he fights against his new life but soon gives in to pressure from his abductors in order to maintain his heroin supply.
The author pulls no punches in her description of what Mikey has to endure in his new life, and this includes some explicit sexual scenes, ranging from rape to the more sensitive sexual attraction that develops between Mikey and another rent boy, plus all the guilt and embarrassment this entails. This is contrasted with the middle-class ordinary existence of his parents and sister as they try to come to terms with Mikey’s disappearance.
Mikey’s abduction causes chaos within his family, and their quiet lives are thrown into disarray. They also find it difficult to understand, never mind come to terms with, the changes in Michael and his rejection of them. Interwoven into the story is the developing attraction of his sister, Kate, to the detective in charge of the investigation.
This book can be shocking in parts, but at no time is compassion for Mikey lost, even after he accepts his situation, develops an attachment to his captors, and no longer wants to go home. The author is expert at handling Mikey’s conflicting emotions, as well as describing his dependence on his captors and the heroin they supply to him. The reader is desperate for Mikey to find his way back to being Michael, but is left with the feeling that there is no way out for him, and that even if he does find his way home it would be unrealistic to expect everything to be the same.
Bennett handles some very tough issues in this novel which was placed on the long-list for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger competition. It is a well-written, hard-hitting novel of a life that will be unfamiliar to most readers.
A final word of caution, there are some explicit sexual scenes involving male prostitution in this novel.
Reviewed by Chris Longmuir
Hamelin’s Child is available on Kindle
More about Debbie Bennett