Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
There are some who say you should never take a backward step into your past, because you may just regret it. For Craig Macklin, going home to Manchester after more than a dozen years away in London represents an escape from a bad job and an unsuccessful marriage – a chance to start afresh and to reconnect with his parents and his best mates Mark and Kimberly.
What he hadn’t reckoned on, however, was that things have changed in the intervening years, and the cloak of mild thievery and wrongdoing that they all wore back then as a sop against boredom [and a lack of opportunity], has also changed.
His parents are as inward-looking as ever, even unwelcoming, with no horizons and no hope. Worse, they are deeply in debt to a local loan shark. The main problem is that the original shark, known to everybody, has been replaced by a much sleeker, and far more dangerous menace, who doesn’t take no for an answer and deals with unpaid debts through violence.
Faced with a duty to help his parents, Craig enlists the help of Mark, his old friend and one-time protector, who lives locally and knows people… or so he claims. There must be a way, Craig decides, to pay off the debt and get his parents free of the threat hanging over them. All he needs is an ‘in’ to meet the new man at the top of the tree.
But the new sharks are part of a Chinese gang who seem to have taken over the neighbourhood, and when Craig tries to pay off the full debt, he is saddled with an even greater one… and the threat has not diminished. In fact, he finds himself involved with gun-running as a way of paying off the new debt.
Cleverly paced and darkly painted, with alternate flashbacks of the younger Craig and Mark pursuing their low-level criminality (with Craig being the most reluctant throughout), the present-day pair are superficially the same, but underneath there is a vast difference in outlook. Mark is secretive and as full of stories and tall tales as he ever was, still rooted in the local area, still living off his wits, older but apparently no closer to getting out. He is also living with Kimberly, who once professed love for Craig, but who now bears the scars and bruises of a loveless relationship… and something far, far worse.
Eventually, Craig realises that he has to get out. But he has to deal with the situation before he goes.
A well-told story of secrets re-lived, of years long-gone, of relationships changed forever and the discovery that the world has become a much more dark and dangerous place than it was. Or is it the people who have changed and he hasn’t realised it?
Either way, there should have been no going back.