Review: Catch the Zolt by Phillp Gwynne

  • Title: Catch the Zolt
  • Author: Phillip Gwynne
  • Series: The debt – book 1
  • Next book in series: Turn off the lights book 2
  • Genre: Adventure/Thriller
  • Available from the library: Yes 
  • resized_9781742378442_224_297_FitSquare

First sentence:  ‘The day of my fifteenth birthday started off pretty much like every other day: the alarm on my iPhone going off at 5:30 am, playing the song I hated most in the world, ‘Who Let The Dogs Out.’

Reviewed by Mrs Fitzsimons (written for Viewpoint magazine and will appear in the Autumn edition)

Catch the Zolt is the first instalment in Phillip Gwynne’s new six-part thriller series for ten to fourteen year olds: The Debt. Catch the Zolt, due to be launched in January 2013, will be closely followed by the next five instalments in the series: Turn Off the Lights, Bring Back Cerberus, Fetch the Treasure Hunter, Yamashita’s Gold and Take a Life and these will be released in turn in February, March, June, September and December 2013.

Like Deadly Unna and Nukkin Ya, Catch the Zolt is narrated by a teenager and in this novel, Gwynne introduces us to Dom Silvagni, a fifteen year old elite runner from the Gold Coast. Dom is from an incredibly affluent family, who despite their lovely lifestyle, are burdened by a terrible family secret. On his fifteenth birthday, Dom’s uncomplicated life is thrown awry by his father and grandfather’s revelation that he must repay the debt of his ‘great-great-great-great grandfather’. This debt has a dark edge because its creditors are the ‘Ndrangeta,’ and this ‘Like the mafia, but not as nice’ outfit take the business of the Silvagni’s ‘ancient’ debt very seriously.  Much to Dom’s dismay and horror, he discovers that, like his father and grandfather, he must complete ‘six assignments’ in order to service ‘the Debt’ or suffer the horrifying consequence – lose a ‘pound of flesh.’

As the hero, Dom is an engaging protagonist and given he tells his own story, the audience is able to gather clues and make connections with Dom as they occur for Dom in the narrative. This creates real tension and excitement, as Dom quickly finds himself catapulted out of the safe and protected world of Halcyon Grove and Coast Boys’ Grammar, and into the seedy underworld of Gold Coast and beautiful, yet dangerous, places like Reverie Island. Dom is very much a modern teen hero: he uses an iPhone, an iMac and Facebook and watches television on a ‘plasma’ but at the same time he has an otherness about him that sets him apart from other teens. For a start he is an elite runner (in a place where everyone’s great love seems to be football) whose list of heroes include Hicham El Guerrouj and John Landy;  he likes eating the Kenyan breakfast of champions, ‘ugali,’ for breakfast and he’s also from a privileged and affluent family.

The pace of Catch the Zolt is as cracking as Hicham El Guerrouj over 1500 metres, as Dom assembles an unlikely support crew to help him in his quest, a quest he finds very difficult ethically. Dom is supported by some strong female characters: his sister, Miranda, who is extremely knowledgeable and savvy when it comes to computers and communications technology, as well as the Zolt’s sister, Zoe, who is also extremely astute and skilled when it comes to iPhones and apps and cleverly using social networking as a weapon. Imogen, Dom’s best friend and unrequited love-interest also provides the story with narrative tension and Tristan, his rival on the racetrack and rival for Imogen’s affections, also forms an unlikely partnership with Dom in order to ‘Catch the Zolt.’

A real page-turner that’s sure to generate interest in the series’ unfolding narrative.

Favourite quote: ‘Even as I thought this I realised I still didn’t believe that The Debt, the ‘Ndrangheta, whatever you wanted to call them, had taken their pound of flesh, had taken Gus’s leg. It just wasn’t possible. Not in the twentieth century. Not in Australia.’

Visit the website for the series and read an extract from Catch the Zolt and watch the trailer.

What now?

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