Older: The Mercy Seat by Martyn Waites, 2006, 9781933648002.
I'm two weeks behind in typing up my book notes. Maybe that is for the best. I will only remember the things that struck me while reading. Or not.
Short: Investigative journalist in self-imposed exile is asked to help his old newspaper with a story involving politics.
Longer: Joe Donovan's six-year-old (or so) son went missing and Joe abandoned his career, family, and some sanity during his constant and guilty search for the boy. He's been living a self-imposed and mostly incommunicado exile in a run down house in the North.
A 14-year-old rent boy in London steals an audio disc detailing a confession about murder and industrial espionage and some other stuff. The boy listens to the disc and realizes he can sell the information. He remembers Donovan's name and calls Donovan's old newspaper offering to sell the disc. Donovan is recruited back into the fold with assurances of both payment for the job and access to any resources assisting in the search for Donovan's son.
Things happen. Beware the spoilers. Donovan and the newspaper editor shag. The boy is being pursued by a murderous and 'roided up skinhead. Donovan is a self-hating boozer. The boy has never had a stable home and can only think of getting enough cash so he won't have to sleep in abandoned cars or sell sex to middle-aged men.
The bad guy is a cop from the North who is a weasel. He is violent. He uses and abuses women. He wants money and status. There is a missing scientist involved and his absence is a huge news story.
Blah, blah, blah. As usual everything boils down to the characters, how they are developed and how they interact. There are some holes in the plot: how would a mostly illiterate 14-year-old street kid remember or know anything about an investigative reporter who went off the grid 1-2 years ago? Donovan can be frustrating and there are a couple private investigators that don't seem to fit the story.
The teen boy is the best character. He's trying his best to be brave and tough but he is just an abused kid who has been surviving day to day. Teen Boy is used by everyone and when some decent people come along - Donovan and the paper's editor - he has not reason to trust or believe in them. He goes North and is lost and a little bewildered outside of his London neighborhood.