THE Tory Party’s mantra “Broken Britain” might be said to be affirmed by Simon Lelic’s provocative debut novel Rupture.

Britain is in the grip of a humid summer when teacher Samuel Szajkowski strides into assembly at his school and unleashes a barrage of gunfire. Three pupils and one colleague lie dead before he turns the gun on himself.

Inexperienced policewoman Lucy May is handed the investigation and is instructed to bring things to a conclusion speedily and decisively. Initially it seems there was no way the tragedy could have been predicted and that Szajkowski was a psychopath whose twisted reasoning forged this random act of mayhem.

But Lucy, like all good literary coppers, is not prepared to take things at face value and begins to worry at the unanswered questions of the case. Why should an unassuming schoolteacher be responsible for such slaughter?

Of course the usual perpetrators of mass killings in schools are alienated young men wiping out fellow pupils before dying themselves and achieving posthumous fame and notoriety. In Rupture, Simon Lelic has made a teacher the agent of destruction. It is this as much as anything else that marks out his work as something different – and this is a novel that functions on a variety of levels.

As Lucy begins to correlate the testimonies of Szajkowski’s colleagues and the children at the school, a disturbing pattern of bullying and negligence begins to emerge and Lucy realises that there are parallels between her own life and that of the killer. As she gets nearer to the truth it becomes clear that the revelations at her fingertips may cost her dearly.

Beginning with a caustic dialogue between a group of youngsters playing with a shopping trolley, the story is revealed through a variety of narrators and it is apparent from the opening sentence that Lelic has nailed both the dialogue and the psychology of young people in a totally persuasive fashion.

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