BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW: Wicked Game (Robert Finlay), by Matt Johnson #WickedGame

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Publication date:  24th December 2015 (EBook) & 31st March 2016 (Paperback)

Wicked Game My Review

Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

The sheer dogged determination of Robert Finlay provides one hell of an exhilarating ride, as he dodges bullets, explosives, and the shadows of his past, in this Wicked Game of cat and mouse.

Expect nothing less than a thrilling journey, where secrets and revenge are delivered with guts and precision and the stakes are as high as they get – Finlay gives new meaning to the SAS motto of “Who dares, wins“.

He’s coordinated the siege on the Iranian Embassy back in 2001, he’s single-handedly stopped IRA terrorists in their tracks on-masse, but at 48 years old he was convinced he’d moved on from his old life in the SAS.  Yet, no matter how his career and his life progress he keeps constant vigil over his family as he’s afraid of losing them. When you’ve experienced exactly what people are capable of, you’re aware of dangers all around.  Even more so now, as several tragic incidents have occurred involving his old buddies, setting alarms bells off (plus detonations and sporadic gunfire).

It feels like too much of a co-incidence, almost like their names are being checked of a list. It’s thought to be impossible, as no one should know who or where they are – not even his colleagues at Stoke Newington Police Station where Finlay has joined as an Inspector. It seems implausible to even consider how anyone could be privy to such sensitive information, since he was assured his and others’ personnel records and their associated high profile deeds were sealed and would never see the light of day. Their identities should remain forever anonymous to protect them, and those they love.

After Finlay evades a couple of tragic near misses, where the initial feeling is that random police officers are being target, it’s thought the IRA are responsible. Between clandestine off-the-record meetings with MI5 and evading questions thrown at him from his own superiors, he quickly realises he doesn’t know who to trust anymore, as the evidence is pointing to someone far more dangerous than first thought. He can’t even confide in his wife as she is oblivious to his past. All he can do is fear for her safety and that of his daughter – and he’ll do anything to protect them.

Robert Finlay, ex-SAS officer, protector of Royalty, Detective to Scotland Yard, more importantly a husband and father, places all his faith in his semi-rusty skills. He’s been out of the game for a little while and he’s not as young as he used to be. He misjudges situations, he’s allowing his emotions to get the better of him, all the things you shouldn’t be when dealing with an invisible threat. But he must put an end to the terror, even if it’s the end of him. This is very, very personal, and those responsible had better watch out. Finlay won’t rest until he stops them – whoever they are.

The threads are pulled in one by one to weave a highly dangerous web and catch a very specific target. I may not have got to grips with the various military acronyms but it truly is a cracking read from start to finish, and puts into perspective what some people have to sacrifice in order to keep others safe.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for providing a digital copy of this book for review – plus a surprise paperback! – and thanks also to Liz Barnsley for saving a stop on the Orenda tour bus for me once again. Much appreciated, both.)

Wicked Game Book Summary

2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. Finlay’s deeply traumatic, carefully concealed past is about to return to haunt him. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay’s own SAS regiment, and in a series of explosive events, it becomes clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues, friends and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse a wicked game in which Finlay is the target, forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy.

Wicked Game is a taut, action packed, emotive thriller about a man who might be your neighbour, a man who is forced to confront his past in order to face a threat that may wipe out his future, a man who is willing to do anything to protect the people he loves. But is it too late?

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Wicked Game Author Links

(Courtesy of Publisher)

Matt JohnsonMatt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll.

In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whilst undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. He has used his detailed knowledge and memory to create a fast paced, exciting and authentic tale of modern day policing. Matt Johnson is living proof that PTSD is a condition that can be controlled and overcome with the right help and support. He has been described by many fans as an inspiration to fellow sufferers. Matt is currently working on a sequel ‘Deadly Game’ scheduled for publication Summer 2015.

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Book Review: Fractured, by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Publisher:  Legend Press    |    Publication date:  1st February 2016

Fractured My Review

Fractured

Fractured is bold and intense, as hopeful as it is bleak. Every word from its heart is perfectly attuned to capture the shifting mood throughout, and it doesn’t miss a beat.

A story-hungry journalist, his estranged mother, and a Somali teenager. These individuals will endure many challenges presented by a country where the struggle for control takes centre stage, and the consequences are greater than they could ever imagine.

The opening scenes evoke a sense of hopelessness for Peter Maguire, a journalist held captive in a squalid cell by his merciless kidnappers. He is lost, both geographically and mentally, craving his past lives; one built with his girlfriend in France, the other in Liberia, which includes a son he has never seen.

Peter’s basic needs are left in the hands of a young and puzzling character. Abdi has experienced many unkind events in his sketchy life. There are not many options for this lad’s future, other than to face recruitment by a terrorist group wreaking havoc. His duties include bringing food to the prisoner, whose fate he knows to be sealed, but in quieter moment he also exchanges a few words, albeit briefly.

Peter’s current circumstances were more akin to a living tomb. He is waiting for the day the door would open and this half-life would finally be over. But until that happens he exists in hours of darkness and allows regret to consume him, as he would miss the opportunity to right his wrongs.

On his current path, Abdi realises his life is an infinite nothingness. The skinny, unsmiling lad is trying to ignore an invite to join the militants fighting for power while privately questioning the motives behind the kidnapping. His spontaneous decision to aid Peter’s escape arrives with little preparation. Without shoes, or a definitive direction, they flee into the night. As they are evading capture an odd, unspoken friendship ensues.

Peter’s mother, Nina, is restless waiting for news in Paris. Once a journalist herself, she is unable to sit and do nothing, so she jets off to Somalia hoping to make amends for a secret she held back in Peter’s youth. While she is there she will endeavour to chase away the ghosts of her past and try to contribute what ever skills she can collect along the way.

Told in the first person, the haunted trio offer their fragmented stories in turn by voicing their fears, their inner turmoil, and their experiences within this hostile environment, past and present. As they reflect on their lives it is clear they are all imprisoned in one way or another. Are they prepared to accept this fate, or can they leave their torment behind them?

That conclusion can only be reached by immersing yourself in the stunning passages, and often solitary sentences, that were so perfectly formed I personally stopped to re-read them. I’ll leave you with one such poignant moment that creates a powerful impact in a mere few words:

At first, her face didn’t change, and then it was as if someone had stuck a pin into her neck, letting the air hiss out. She shrank, her shoulders sagging. She stopped fingering the wooden bangle that Peter had brought her on his last trip to Africa. Her hands fell into her lap, like shot birds from the sky.

Rating: 5/5

(With thanks to Tom Chambers and Legend Press for arranging a paperback review copy of this title, as part of the Legend 100 Club.)

Legend 100 Club

 

(Courtesy of Legend Press)

Peter Maguire has been kidnapped in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. He does not know where he is or what is going to happen to him. The journalist is filled with fear and, as the days go by, this dread of the unknown is shot through with remorse for the mistakes of his past.

Peter’s mother Nina comes to Somalia to wait for her son’s release. His plight forces her to relive another trauma – the fatal shooting in Liberia of Shaun Ridge, a young photographer she once loved, and Peter’s real father.

Abdi, a Somali teenager working with Peter’s captors strikes a tenuous friendship with the prisoner based on a shared feeling of captivity. He decides to help Peter escape. Together and they set off into the barren vastness of a land filled with danger.

Three people must journey into one of the world’s most dangerous places, the human mind, to answer the question: are we ever truly free?

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 (Courtesy of Legend Press)

Clar Ni Chonghaile Author PicClar Ni Chonghaile is the author of Fractured, due February 2016.

Clár grew up in the West of Ireland, the eldest of seven children. She left Ireland aged 19 to work as a graduate trainee journalist at Reuters in London. Clár has worked as a journalist for over 20 years and has lived in Madrid, Paris, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Kenya.

Whilst in Nairobi, she freelanced for the Guardian and travelled to Somalia to cover the African Union’s battle against al Shabaab and the plight of thousands of displaced people.

Clár returned to London in Summer 2014, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

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