In a world where vulnerability is punished, four LA teenagers are sent on a mission – to assassinate a judge in Wisconsin.

During the road trip from California we see beneath the surface of the brash personas the young men adopt.

East, a low-level lookout for a Los Angeles drug organisation, is recruited for the job by his uncle when he loses his watch house in a police raid.

He and three other untested boys set out in a nondescript blue van, with a roll of cash, a map and a gun they shouldn’t have.

There’s college dropout Michael, flabby but mentally sharp Walter, and Ty, East’s trigger-happy half brother.

It’s tense from the start and Bill Beverly – winner of the CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger Award 2016 and the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2016 – cranks it up with razor-sharp writing.

You feel something can and will go terribly wrong for these kids at any moment.

And the surprise – given they are on the way to commit a murder – is you care: Beverly creates an unexpected empathy. Especially for East who reaches a crossroads in his life.

This literary crime novel is a stunning debut: the writing is lean and the action fast. Its debatable whether the characters would have the depth of thought for their introspections and the dialogue feels a bit forced at times; as if it’s the author’s idea of how young black men talk rather than an authentic representation.

But these are small gripes and overall the book is a real page-turner which offers heart-breaking insights into other lives.

Bill Beverly will be talking about Dodgers at Waterstones, Oxford, at 7pm on Tuesday. Call 01865 790212 or visit Tickets £5/£3 Waterstones Cardholders.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly, No Exit Press, £14.99 hardback, £7.99 paperback