Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Transworld for the ARC of this book.
The start of this book is absolutely thrilling, it follows a journalist called Famie as she reports of seven stabbings in London and begins to realise that all of the people who were stabbed were her colleagues. I found it utterly gripping and moving and actually found myself crying. I don’t think I have ever cried so early in a book.
Unfortunately, the book is unable to sustain this pace and engagement. Once the funerals are over, it loses its momentum as it follows Famie and several of her journalist friends having lots of puzzled conversations with each other but not really doing all that much clever investigating. They look at a couple of devices, receive a couple of cryptic notes and then end up embroiled in a terrorist plot which takes place in Coventry for, as far as I can tell, the sole reason that Simon Mayo went to university there and enjoys including tidbits of his own life in his novels.
It is one of those thriller novels where everyone is connected to everyone else and when it got to the end and the big villain was revealed, you end up feeling like ‘hang on a minute why would they do that, and how did they know about it?‘. It’s kind of neat and messy at the same time. I had no idea really what the terrorists were aiming to achieve, but then it is fairly impossible to empathise with most terrorists.
It’s a shame because there is the kernel of a brilliant idea in there, but after the opening, it just isn’t that well executed or interesting. The characters were fairly bland and interchangeable and didn’t really develop over the course of the book. I also had an issue with the lead character’s name, Famie, which is unusual and not pronounced phonetically so every time I read it my brain jarred slightly and it reminded me I was reading a book and took me out of the story.
Simon Mayo’s young adult books, the Itch series, are really engaging and fun to read, but I don’t think he has quite mastered the art of writing adult thriller fiction yet.