Wicked Game, by Matt Johnson, is a fast moving thriller containing all the elements which make this genre so compelling whilst avoiding any hint of a formulaic approach. Its protagonist is an ex soldier who served in the SAS before leaving to join the metropolitan police. Despite this background he is not presented as an all action hero. The author has made him accomplished but believable.
The story opens in 2001 with a suicide bombing in India. We are then introduced to the protagonist, Robert Finlay, who takes us back to 1980 and an incident in Northern Ireland. This and his subsequent role in the Iranian Embassy siege in London were key moments in his military career.
Returning to what is the story’s present day we learn that Finlay is leaving his role as a Royal Protection officer to return to everyday police work. With a wife and young child to consider his priorities have changed.
Within days of his return two police officers have been being targeted by a killer. Investigations suggest that these attacks are not random acts of terror. Finlay’s life is in danger and it is unclear from whom or why. The past he has hidden for his own safety comes back to haunt him, threatening his family and their stability.
The author is himself an ex soldier and policeman which adds to the sense of authenticity with which this tale is imbued. What makes the book so readable though is the skill with which the plot is developed and written. Threads are thrown out and then woven back in, characters are fully rounded, the pace unrelenting. This is edge of your seat storytelling that is difficult to put down.
The denouement is permeated with a sense of dread. I had to force myself not to skim over words, so eager was I to find out what happened next. It did not disappoint.
An action thriller of the highest order that deserves to be read widely. It is hard to believe such an accomplished work is a debut.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Orenda Books.