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by Simon Kernick
Century, January 2013
368 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1780890737

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In ULTIMATUM, Simon Kernick loosely picks up from where SEIGE left off. William Garrett, the mercenary codenamed Fox, is in prison awaiting trial but the police are no nearer finding out who was employing him during the hostage crisis in a major London hotel in which numerous people died.

The Metropolitan Police have reinstated DC Tina Boyd after she killed a man, but she's still not in good odour with her bosses, despite the part she played in bringing the siege to an end. And she doesn't endear herself to them when a suspect fleeing the scene of a café bomb is knocked down and killed with Tina in hot pursuit. But she's quickly given a chance to shine when Fox demands to speak to her, saying he'll provide information on those behind both the café bomb and the hotel siege.

It's not hard to see why Tina Boyd can't stay in anyone's good books for long. Her problem is that she acts without thinking and can't seem to follow orders. Mavericks are all very well, and without them crime fiction and thrillers would be awfully short of main characters, but in Tina's case I'm afraid she doesn't really have enough of a personality to keep her from being deeply annoying and it's hard to stay on board as she lurches from one disaster to the next, mostly of her own making.

But as race against time books go, ULTIMATUM stands up reasonably well to others of its ilk, although it doesn't have the same breakneck pace and interesting cast of characters that I'd hoped for after reading SIEGE. Tina's immediate superior, DI Mike Bolt, isn't annoying, nor does he particularly shine. It's left to the book's partial narrator, the former soldier and policeman usually known just as Jones, to fill that gap. Jones has done time, which put the final kiss of death on his marriage, and as a result has ended up in an undercover operation for Mike Bolt. It soon becomes clear that both strands of the story are on a collision course, with the bad guys Jones is trying to get close to also involved in the terrorist plot. On that subject, finding names for shadowy terrorist organisations can't be easy, but I can't help thinking that The Brotherhood is about as unoriginal as it gets.

Between them, Jones and Fox have to supply most of the interest, but as the two story arcs come together in an explosive finale, the book finally starts to live up to its initial promise.

I'm guessing that Kernick will squeeze another book out of this sequence as not all the bad guys have been unmasked, but if he does, I hope he can find a way of adding interest to his main characters that doesn't solely rely on their inability to follow simple instructions.

§ Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, December 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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