Published by Quercus books
It’s Christmas Day and the only thing disgraced hedge fund manager Graham Poynter can celebrate is that he and his family are beyond reach of the baying media, safely barricaded into their Belgravia home.
Eighteen months have passed since BAPTISM’s murder on the underground, and Ed Mallory has left the force to earn a living as a freelance negotiator but finds himself more frequently called to the business lecture circuit than a hostage situation. With a recently failed negotiation behind him and feeling marginalized by ‘his new role as a consultant’, Ed’s paranoia and confidence are at an almost lifetime low when he is faced with a hostage-taker without apparent motive, with whom it’s ‘like talking to a colleague’.
In a short and deadly opening chapter, Kinnings shunts the reader immediately into the action, before teasing out the suspense, turning back the ticking clock of the narrative by four meticulously illustrated hours from this first death. Exploring the nature of privilege and greed, Kinnings does a convincing job of creating swift but rounded psychological profiles, in particular of the family taken hostage and their captor, who is the most appealing and likeable of them all. Kinnings continues to make beautiful use of Mallory’s four remaining senses to describe and interpret his surroundings. He manoeuvres the reader into and outside his characters’ heads, constantly playing with the perspective and making reading joyfully compulsive. Hence, as Graham Poynter stands at the edge of his roof feeling like a rock star ‘holding the attention of the crowd’ with ‘a new sense of freedom’, the police observe with simple horror that Poynter ‘nearly fell again’.
Though it lacks the gloriously personal connection of BAPTISM (where the use of public transport and random victims gave the narrative an Everyman possibility) this is another deftly crafted, page-turning thriller. The novel won’t make your heart palpitate with the fearful prospect that this could happen to you, which was part of the brilliance of Kinnings’ first novel. However, for all that the characters are vivid and varied, by riffing on their human greed for excitement, for risk and power, Kinnings explores how closely they resemble one another better to divine the difference between victim and criminal.