In the summer of 1952, Joyce and Charlie Savigear are waiting on a railway platform in the quiet English countryside. The siblings have just been released from borstal to start a new life as apprentices at Leventree, an architecture practice with a difference.
The architects who've chosen them are Florence and Arthur Mayhood, a married couple motivated to give young offenders second chances. At first, they seem to offer the Savigears a steady path to happiness. But when a menacing figure from Joyce's past comes knocking, they are lured back to the world they left behind. Will the Mayhoods' goodwill be enough to steer their young apprentices away from danger, or will the darkness of their past catch up with them?
Benjamin Wood knows how to generate tension, makes lively characters you can see and hear, and writes about rural England in a sensitive, considered way that doesn't stray into the nostalgic ... The Hollis pages ought to be studied keenly by apprentices writers. A huge talent. Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
Benjamin Wood is a beautiful writer and this is his best novel yet, both gripping and unputdownable. Like people in Thomas Hardy, his characters surge from the page, and the mystery unfolds with a sureness seldom seen in contemporary British fiction. Andrew O’Hagan, author of Mayflies
Benjamin Wood is building a sublime body of work. This masterful, suspenseful novel is his best yet. It swallows you up. I love it. David Whitehouse, author of About A Son
Benjamin Wood is in the prime of his writing life, yet few people outside the literary world have heard of this 41-year-old writer from Merseyside. In his thirties he produced three richly layered novels that deftly combined complex ideas with psychological suspense. He has earned comparisons to Donna Tartt and John Fowles, but when it comes to literary prizes he is often the shortlistee and rarely the winner. Perhaps it’s because his fiction has a maturity and restraint that feels a little old-fashioned compared with his brasher contemporaries. His fourth novel, The Young Accomplice, set in the 1950s, is his most original yet ... Wood is a master of enchantment and unease... With its themes of fatalism and revenge, The Young Accomplice has already been compared to Thomas Hardy novels and there are echoes of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in the story of a vulnerable young woman whose past catches up with her. Wood is also wonderful on the intricacies of love and architecture as a means of enriching people’s lives. It’s a novel that feels as if it has been imagined with slow and tender care — and I suspect it will be cherished by readers for a long time. Johanna Thomas-Corr, Sunday Times
Deftly engrossing ... a well-textured and mature novel about architecture and idealism. Though painted on a small canvas, it encompasses broad ideas about the nature of society, creativity and its relation to work and human nature ... Wood is a seriously talented writer, able to enter the minds of his characters with eerie precision. The Young Accomplice is an involving tale of revenge and responsibility, which, while it devastates, also tells us that new lives can be built among the ashes. Philip Womack, Financial Times
Benjamin Wood shows his skill with this brooding tale of rural unease set in the 1950s ... Wood, who excels at creating tense enclosed environments, gives the Mayhoods and the Savigears the complexity of real people by understanding that character is illuminated in relation to others ... The reader gets a turn in everyone’s head, and it’s all beautifully done ... The story settles after its exquisite ending (the last line is one of the best I’ve read in years). It’s only by sustaining his characters so well that Wood can make us miss them when they’re gone, and so The Young Accomplice shows the difference between a book that slides down the surface of things, and one that digs its claws into you and sticks there. John Self, The Times
The Young Accomplice is not a Dickensian tale of salvation via social mobility, though it riffs on the idea (and we encounter Magwitch-like criminals at large in the countryside). Rather, it subtly interrogates the "saviour story" paradigm ... The book is less concerned with the idea of betterment than with examining the effects a person can have on another, for good or for bad, and the factors that might facilitate, or impede, a fully rounded life ... With deceptive ease, the book weaves elements of crime, mystery, love story and coming of age. Shifts in perspective from one character to the next mean the plot can splinter in many directions, offering alternate outcomes to lives broadly similar ... Wood's natural observational style, combined with his sensibility for the vocabulary and syntax of the time (the prose never feels stilted) make The Young Accomplice a well-wrought novel whose pleasure is in each careful scene, moment and sentence. Niamh Donnelly, Irish Times
Wood’s unnerving fourth novel follows young siblings from borstal to living on a farm in 50s England. As a portrait of youthful mistakes and adult blindness, The Young Accomplice is both tender and cutting; it is often subtle and occasionally thrilling. Guardian
A many-layered story of old-fashioned virtue and ambition, an account of the practicalities of “a campaign for a better life”. The Young Accomplice is finely constructed, with themes of wrongdoing and innocence woven naturally into the action. Its evocation of an ostensibly decorous postwar world full of contradictions is convincing throughout. Benjamin Wood’s attention to detail, his smooth writing style and his strong beliefs give the novel an unusual dignity, in keeping with the era of its setting. TLS
Benjamin Wood's tender fourth novel is about nature and idealism, but it also examines responsibility and the fragility of inspiration. New Statesman
Wood writes with superb attention to detail and authenticity ... A great read, so beautifully composed that at times I found it hard to believe it was not a forgotten classic by a master such as Graham Greene or Nigel Balchin. Historical Novel Society