Timing is everything.
Martin McGuiness, Northern Ireland’s controversial former deputy first minister, died after a short illness on the same day I finished Roger A Price’s new crime thriller Vengeance, which, coincidentally, features a former IRA commander-turned-politician.
And, as I write this review, the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge is the subject of every news bulletin.
Price couldn’t have made his novel more topical if he’d tried.
It’s an interesting read – second in his Badge and Pen series, which follows the fortunes of detective inspector Vinnie Palmer and his civilian ally, TV news reporter Christine Jones.
The plot is straightforward enough: hit man Jack Quintel has been hired by a mystery client to assassinate a list of targets, beginning with Jim Reedly, Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police.
Vinnie and Christine are out to stop him.
Quintel is not a likeable person – although, realistically, Mr Nice Guys probably don’t make very effective assassins.
Love to hate
Or, perhaps, they do. I don’t know – don’t think I’ve ever met one.
But Quintel’s not even the sort of villain you love to hate – which is disappointing given that a considerable chunk of the story is told from his point of view.
It’s understandable, perhaps, that Price, a former detective inspector in a covert undercover drugs unit, should choose to present those on the wrong side of the law as out-and-out villains, but I’d have liked more flesh on Quintel’s bones.
A little more back story might have humanised him – what made him a vicious killer?
Why the greed for money? Why the relentless, almost casual, violence?
As an ex-journalist, I don’t like unanswered questions. And, as a reader, I don’t value investing time in a character with so little depth.
Thankfully, Vinnie and Christine are more empathetic – and their deepening personal and professional relationship adds lots of possibilities for future books in the series.
But I struggled with some aspects of the central plot line – and it’s hard to be specific without giving away the answer to whodunit and why?
Let’s just say, I didn’t find the Catholic First Minister at Stormont entirely convincing.
And, the vengeful former IRA commander, with a grudge against the police, who wakes up from Locked-In syndrome?
He didn’t convince me either: miracles do happen but they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.
And there are other reasons too why this miracle is hard to swallow.
Unfortunately, spelling them out would be too much of a spoiler.
But, hey ho, all good fiction involves suspending disbelief in the interests of a good story and, nit-picking aside, Vengeance is a pacy read with enough thrills and spills to keep the pages turning.
And I’m sure it will be a big hit with less pernickety readers.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.