This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman – Review

Title: This Mortal Boy

Author: Fiona Kidman

Genre: Fiction (based on real events)

Publisher: Gallic Books

Publication Date: 1st August 2019



Auckland, October 1955. If young Paddy Black sings to himself he can almost see himself back home in Belfast. Yet, less than two years after sailing across the globe in search of a better life, here he stands in a prison cell awaiting trial for murder. He pulled a knife at the jukebox that night, but should his actions lead him to the gallows? As his desperate mother waits on, Paddy must face a judge and jury unlikely to favour an outsider, as a wave of moral panic sweeps the island nation.

Fiona Kidman’s powerful novel explores the controversial topic of the death penalty with characteristic empathy and a probing eye for injustice.


This one appealed to me because I love reading true crime and the case sounded really intriguing. This Mortal Boy is a work of fiction but as far as I can tell it sticks very closely to events as they happened and the author has evidently done plenty of research. The book touches on some really interesting points, one of which is immigration. It is mostly set in New Zealand in the 1950s in that peculiar time period after the Second World War where the world had moved on but was still experiencing the ramifications and aftermath of the global conflict. The climate at the time in New Zealand seemed to be one of fear and mistrust both concerning immigrants and the so called ‘reckless and promiscuous youth’. Because of this climate and the fact that the death penalty was in use at the time, Albert Black finds himself facing an extremely challenging fight for his life after he is charged with murder.

I found it really interesting to follow the ins and outs of how Albert’s case proceeds at trial. The reader is able to draw their own conclusions as it progresses and evaluate whether the trial was fairly or unfairly judged by the jury and the public. This book is not full of action, it’s a bit of a slow burn as we learn more and more about the key characters and events but I think this makes it more intriguing as the novel builds to the conclusion in a contemplative manner. The death penalty is an incredibly fractious and controversial topic and there are no easy answers here but I believe This Mortal Boy demonstrates the many complex layers to the idea of  ‘an eye for an eye’ effectively. Overall this is an intelligently written and informative novel which will allow the reader to truly think and reach their own conclusions on Albert Black.

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is my own, honest opinion. 

Links are Amazon Affiliate Links. I earn a very small percentage of qualifying orders. 

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