A disturbing read – 4 Stars   Well worth a read!

Paperback, 334 pages
Published June 7th 2012 by Pan Books
ISBN 1447207904 (ISBN13: 9781447207900)
literary awardsCWA Non-Fiction Dagger Nominee for Highly Commended (2013)


On 21st September 2001 the mutilated torso of a small child was found floating beside London’s Tower Bridge, one tide away from being swept into the North Sea. Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city.Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.


This is a biographical account of Richard Hoskins who helped with the investigations into child murders by those who believed they had kindoki (evil spirits).

Excellently written in the form of a novel rather than pure facts, it is a personal journey as well as an account. An important issue to read about and understand, this is a truly disturbing book to read.

As a Christian and having lived in a village helping in the medical centre in the Congo with his first wife Richard, grew to love the people and country.

Through his expertise in African tribal ritual and religion, he enters the darkest of worlds helping the police in their investigations into child abuse and murder in London linked to beliefs in certain African communities. The investigations leads to child trafficking, and sex exploitation.

He paints a wonderful picture of his early days in the Congo, and of his respect for the people around him. His account of his life in the village is very fascinating and readable, I learnt a lot from his writing.

Through helping the police on several cases of what many thought were ‘witchcraft’ beliefs, he helps the justice system understand the differences in tribal customs and pure child abuse.

There is a disturbing trend that has grown from migrants from parts of Africa to merge Christianity with African religion into a hybrid that is plain wrong. It damages the various peoples of Africa who do not practice ‘deliverance’ rituals, and to the many Africans who do not follow these extreme churches.

Richard Hoskins pulls no punches when he describes how insidious these practices are, and how it affected him and his family when he was researching them. The cases he describes are well known Victoria Climbie and Child B, and his first case that of ‘Adam’ the torso of a six year old found in the Thames. He is honest in the effect on people and society and writes this book as a warning not to overlook the effect on our own communities.

I enjoyed reading this book but was understandably troubled by what he was recounting.