Rees, Emlyn - 'Hunted'
"23:22, Knightsbridge, London SW7
From line one, page one of HUNTED, you're bang in the middle of thriller territory. Colonel Zykov is the Military Attaché to the Russian Embassy in London, and he is about to make a very regrettable decision.
Meanwhile Danny Shanklin, ex-US Army, ex-CIA, current freelance bodyguard and kidnap specialist, is also headed for trouble as he prepares for a meeting with some mysterious new clients. A few chapters in, he finds himself waving a gun at the scene of the biggest massacre of civilians ever seen in London. Within minutes he is on the run from the police, MI5 and the press: 'a one-man blood sport', with only his tech-support expert The Kid to guide him.
Danny is, as usual in thrillers, skilled enough to cope with his situation. He has been trained almost from birth, and the collected thoughts of his father, 'the Old Man', guide him on his way.
"You drop your guard and sooner or later you end up getting hit."
Nothing like a bit of gentle paternal wisdom. However, Danny is not merely a soldier, and occasionally lets his emotions put him into danger. He carries a burden of guilt stemming from a tragedy in his past which is explored during periodic flashbacks. What is interesting is how his weaknesses eventually prove to be strengths and vice versa.
The London of HUNTED is iconic - Harrods, The Ritz, an upmarket private school, a boat on the Thames. However, there are plenty of nods to recent history - the killings of Brazilian tourist Jean Charles de Menezes and of Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko, the tanks called to Heathrow in 2003, the 'kettling' of civilians - to make the action feel rooted in reality rather than a picture-postcard view of the city. Much is made of the difficulty, almost impossibility of disappearing in a London filled with half a million CCTV cameras, many equipped with facial recognition technology.
After a few establishing scenes at the beginning, Rees keeps the pace snappy with a flurry of short chapters, all opening with time and location, giving the book a '24' style real-time atmosphere (although the use of flashback scenes, although they supply a useful back-story, do interrupt this slightly).
HUNTED is clearly the first in a series. Fans of action-packed adventure should get in on the ground floor.
Rich Westwood, England
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