Finally, a proper book for boys: Vuurbom, by Harm de Jonge, in which boys have old-fashioned fun jumping off railway bridges, collecting stamps, playing with Fleischmann trains and making their own firebombs all by themselves, without any help from the internet or mobile phones. And while they’re off doing that, their mothers are making the vanilla pudding for Sunday lunch. Does that sound a bit slow? Definitely not when it’s Harm de Jonge who’s writing the story.
Jimmy Prins is in hospital with burns on his arm and a bandage on his head. He can’t see anything, but he has a visitor who comes every day: Detective Ratelbuis, who makes a lot of noise by rattling his car keys on the metal bed frame. Ratelbuis wants to know exactly what happened that afternoon in the summer house when the bomb exploded.
Bram Bodaar, the dead boy who is the focus of the story, is an arch-manipulator of the most dangerous kind. He experiments with people. He steals Olivier’s medallion with the picture of his dead mother in it, just to see how he’ll react. And then he calls it scientific research.
Jimmy claims that he was the one who threw the bomb and killed Bram, but he can’t remember any other details. However, Agnes, his Moluccan nurse, doesn’t believe that Jimmy’s a murderer and she succeeds in getting his story out of him, little by little, ‘with a voice as soft as a cleaning cloth’.
In fact, everyone has a good reason for wanting to get their own back on Bram. But who was it really? Olivier, who had his most precious memories stolen? Sikkie the drug dealer, with his knife? One of the other boys?
Vuurbom reads like a thrilling whodunit. The effective use of flashbacks, modelled on crime novels, ensures a compelling, captivating structure. But this novel is about something more important than who did ‘it’. De Jonge succeeds in getting boys out of the house and lets them get their hands dirty, giving them some actual experiences. Vuurbom is original, exciting, humorous, psychologically convincing and well written.