Robert Swindells’ novel Stone Cold alternates between the perspectives of two main characters – a homeless boy named Link and a serial killer who targets homeless people. The book is dedicated to Bob Cryer, Swindells’ left-wing Labour MP.
In terms of structure, the events develop more or less chronologically, from the time Link decides to leave home to the time he is almost killed by Shelter, a murderer targeting homeless people. The dual narratives of Link and Shelter alternate until, at a point of high tension, they converge.
The main characters are Link – a homeless teenager, and Shelter – a serial killer who preys on homeless people. Link introduces several other characters as he tells his story. He befriends Ginger, a boy who teaches him how to survive on the streets, and Gail, a homeless girl who turns out to be an undercover journalist researching homelessness. Several other homeless people that Link meets – including Toya – end up becoming Shelter’s victims.
The story is set in modern days and takes place in the UK across two different settings– Bradford, the city where Link grew up, and London, the place where he moves to escape his abusive family. The events mainly take place in wintertime, a period that highlights the difficulties faced by homeless people.
The novel has two narrators – Link and Shelter – who tell their stories in parallel. The narrators’ voices contrast with each other, as Shelter’s tone is hateful and threatening, while Link’s account emphasizes his vulnerability.
The language that the two main characters use is different. Link is young and uses slang and informal language typical for teenagers, but also street language that helps him get by as a homeless person. Shelter’s language, on the other hand, mirrors his military background as he frequently uses military slang.
You can read a full analysis of the novel on the following pages.