"Orphaned at a cruelly young age, little Hugo Dinsmore is torn from his pampered life and plunged into the nightmare world of brutish country relatives, a world where his refined ways and small stature are a constant source of mockery and torment. Survival means learning to be sly, and Hugo soon finds his talents for retribution and petty thieving. His pure singing voice soon brings him to the attention of the Eggman, a much-feared local gangster who gets Hugo to perform for him and his cronies at their late-night poker sessions. Hugo becomes a well-dressed mascot, travelling with the Eggman and his enforcers in the back of a pink Cadillac. Gradually he breaks away from his old, wretched life, but as the Eggman's grip tightens and a criminal price must be paid for all the fine clothes, Hugo decides to make a spectacular and hazardous break for freedom."
These days, it seems that every lad's mag hack with a laptop and a spare five minutes is cashing in on the popularity of the gangster genre. Often, publication of these books is a bigger crime than any perpetuated by the sketchy characters in the course of the weak plots. Thankfully, Leitch, who began writing novels in 1965, has arrived to teach the younger generation a lesson. Leitch's latest work, The Eggman's Apprentice, traces the career of Hugo Dinsmore, whose idyllic life is stolen from him at a very young age by the death of his parents. His new guardians are country relatives who set about knocking the refinement out of the frightened little boy. In his teens, Hugo discovers a talent for singing that moves him in the same circles as a local gangster known widely, but never to his face, as the Eggman. Before long, Hugo has seized the opportunity to escape poverty and embrace the glamour of the criminal life, but enthusiasm soon becomes disillusionment. It is time to move on again, but this time with a grand gesture that may be perilous to health and liberty... Leitch puts you right at the heart of Northern Ireland in the 1950s and 60s, comfortable in each of the milieus inhabited by the protagonist, from rural brutality to underworld decadence. Hugo himself is a quietly brilliant creation, consumed with a delicious bitterness, angry at his parents for dying and setting him on such a tragic course. He is a classic outsider, never quite fitting in with his surroundings, physically because of his deminutive stature, and mentally because he cannot believe his life has turned out this way. This is a beautifully written novel; it is not flashy and kinetic, but contemplative and rich in atmosphere. It is the type of book that makes one seek out the author's previous work; I can think of no higher recommendation. (Kirkus UK)