The hulking car sidled up slowly, its exhausts pulsing louder than was decent for the sort of vehicle it was.
‘Prims!’ the familiar voice snorted through the passenger window. ‘Hey, Prims!’
Primo Nato stopped and stooped to peer into the car.
‘Tone, mate,’ he said. ‘You went and bought it. I don’t believe it. No, I guess I do.’
‘You like it, eh?’ Primo’s best mate Tony ‘Tone’ Gargano said, tapping the steering wheel lightly. ‘Shes a beauty, yeah?’
Primo threw his arms wide and looked at the car up and down. ‘Mate, you weren’t kidding, it really is a hearse.’
Primo is heading into the business end of his final year of school, when his already- challenging life begins a wild downward spiral into chaos. His dad’s not well, his mother doesn’t seem to get it. One brother has moved back home after marriage troubles, the other is old enough to be Primo’s father and in many ways is too much like their dad. An outing designed to impress his girlfriend goes disastrously wrong when he crashes his dad’s beloved Fiat Bambino. Wild schemes suddenly seem sensible, and many relationships are tested in an escalating race to fix the car before the damage is detected. Primo is making decisions on the fly and that’s never without consequences.
Dead Dog in the Still of the Night is a disturbingly real novel. It’s almost possible to smell the testosterone lifting off the pages as Primo, Tone, brothers and others bounce against and off each other with increasing intensity. The subtitle of this novel recalls the proverb about the two wolves that live inside all of us, one of which is evil. As the proverb reminds, the wolf that grows is the one that’s fed. Primo is a likeable protagonist and the friendship he has with Tone is strong. There are many relationships for Primo to navigate and define in this coming of age story. He has to decide whether he is in control of his own life or whether he is fated do as others have done, or would have him do. Themes include making choices, family, power, truth and responsibility. The dead dog of the title becomes pivotal in Primo’s transition from boy to young adult. Recommended for mature secondary readers.
Dead Dog in the Still of the Night, Archimedes Fusillo Ford St Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925000344
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller