‘A glorious, cartwheeling, magical, frightening story.’
Frank Cottrell Boyce


Booktrust Teenage Prize 2007 – shortlist

Guardian Children’s Book Prize – longlist


New York Public Library Books for the Teenage 2008

BBYA Nomination


Irish Times – Top 30: Critic’s choice


‘I can’t begin to describe how terrific this book is.’

‘A glorious, cartwheeling, magical, frightening story.’

Frank Cottrell Boyce

“Penalty is Mal Peet’s second novel about the sports reporter detective Paul Faustino. This time Faustino is investigating the disappearance of a teenage superstar, El Brujito. Faustino is a grumpy, middle-aged bloke with a quick brain and a laconic manner. In other words, he’s quite like a lot of other fictional detectives. What’s different is the scope and boldness of Peet’s storytelling. Imagine if halfway through the latest Henning Mankell, you came across a lengthy and dramatic recreation of a Viking raid. Or if the vital clue in the new Ian Rankin involved a vivid vision of the Highland clearances. That’s how Penalty works. It opens in the mind of a boy somewhere in Brazil, commentating on his own ball skills as he practises alone – an instantly familiar scene . It then abruptly cuts to the story of a slaving expedition 200 years earlier. Then it comes back to the thriller plot. And somehow it flows. Peet can play brilliantly bendy long balls and make it look easy.”


Well-written, evocative and enthralling. Penalty is sure to win Peet even more awards.

Publishing News

“Peet’s novels for older readers (Keeper, Tamar, which won the Carnegie Medal this year; and now The Penalty) share a strong narrative drive and edge-of-the-seat action as an entrée to the big ideas beyond.

Impossible to put down once picked up.”


‘The novel begins enigmatically, first with a soccer-obsessed youngster practising alone in the back country and then with another boy, centuries earlier in another continent, taken as a slave.’

‘The two stories, one told in the first person as a slave narrative, the other in the third person as a crime novel, gradually converge in an investigation of the striker’s disappearance.’

‘Peet successfully enters the minds of both displaced African slave and cynical reporter and both stories are carried forward at a pace with drama, emotional depth, and dark humour. The climax owes something to Quentin Tarantino and to Hammer Horror. Like Veneration itself, the novel is a strange and fascinating hybrid.

Books For Keeps

‘This highly accessible read is cause for celebration and likely to win Peet many more fans.’

The Scotsman

Mal Peet won the Carnegie Medal this year for Tamar, his outstanding novel about the Resistance in wartime Holland. His latest, The Penalty(Walker £6.99), about the disappearance of a teenage football star in Brazil, weaves together slavery in that country’s brutal colonial past, tribal magic and themes of modern-day corruption as a cynical football journalist goes in search of the boy. The book is notable for its exceptional humanity, stylistic clarity and neat construction.

The Times

Mal Peet’s The Penalty has a kidnapping plot set in soccer-mad Brazil running alongside a parallel story describing the barely imaginable cruelties of that country’s history. Reminiscent of Matt Whyman’s superb Boy Kills Man, this novel opens up a world of corruption against which individuals try to survive as best they can. The denouement, where a voodoo God becomes alarmingly real, stretches credibility, and an uncertain start may put off some readers. But they should stick with this fine story by a writer who is getting better all the time.


‘Fans of Peet’s first novel Keeper will note with pleasure the threads that unobtrusively link The Penalty with the earlier book. Cogently constructed and elegantly written, this latest novel is teenage fiction at its best.’



“Peet’s language is beautiful and assured, with flashes of sardonic humor from Faustino as well as a sense of poignancy and heartbreak in the first-person slave narrative. The lack of YA perspective may initially deter some readers, but Faustino’s journey from skepticism to reluctant belief provides a genuine access point, and any reader who starts this astounding novel will be hard-pressed to put it down. Stunning, original and compelling.”

Kirkus Review (starred review) *

“Corruption and the occult are entangled in this dark, atmospheric thriller; there’s very little soccer action, and the protagonists are mostly adults, but the exotic (fictional) setting and the powerful depiction of slavery will draw in sophisticated readers.”


‘Peet deftly works the interplay of the supernatural and the mundane, and he manipulates his fictional setting to full advantage. The narrative tone recalls hard-boiled newsroom dramas of the 1940s, with the aggressive, chain-smoking, fedora’d reporter transmuted here into a reluctant, chain-smoking skeptic in way over his head. Readers sniffing out soccer action have come to the wrong place; this is an intoxicating mystery story, straight up with an occult twist.’

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s’ Books

“THE PENALTY is a haunting tale that weaves events from the past and the present to reveal how poverty, greed and superstitious beliefs can control — and destroy — lives.” Teenreads



With admirable skill Mal Peet interleaves the present and the past, creating a well-written, intriguing novel with plenty of tension. There are similarities with his previous Faustino novel, Keeper, with a play on the title word and a ‘story within a story.’ This is a book for older teenagers and the author makes no concessions for the squeamish.”