Readers who mopped fevered brows while enjoying Max Kinnings’ first Ed Mallory thriller, Baptism, and fancy more of the same, will not be disappointed by Sacrifice.
Blind hostage negotiator Ed Mallory returns in another countdown of tension. The format of his latest adventure is the same as the first, starting with a violent prologue and hurtling through time-sequenced chapters as another deranged terrorist crisis is tackled.
Where Christian fanatics were behind the Tube outrage in Baptism, this time it is rage against financial swindlers that prompts the fiendish terrorist plot. Graham Poynter, the dodgy businessman behind a Ponsi-like fund collapse and media hate figure, is hiding behind three security guards in a Belgravia mansion when he, his wife Helen and daughter Lily are captured by a former SAS mystery man. A delivery guy, James, who was making his delivery at the wrong time, is also taken hostage, and they are all forced onto the mansion’s roof so that the world’s media can watch the hostage-taker’s theatre of terror. Lily has a grenade attached to her neck and her father is doused with petrol.
The intricacies of hostage negotiation are well explored and gripping to read, and the problem that emerges for Mallory is that the hostage-taker has no demands. This gives Mallory little leverage as the tension builds, with the terrorist slowly losing his cool as events spin towards a horrific finale.
Kinnings skilfully keeps several dilemmas twisting simultaneously through the narrative. Who is behind this audacious but mad plot, which involves Poynter’s business partner also being taken hostage? Why is the hostage-taker, who has killed the security guards, sacrificing himself in a bloody stunt that will land him in jail? Is he planning to kill the hostages? And can the hostages overpower their ruthless captor, an expert killer?
Kinnings is Head of Subject in Creative Writing at Brunel University in London and has come up with the template for a ruthlessly efficient style of commercial thriller. The characters do get submerged amid all the action, but the plot drives forward relentlessly to produce a page-turner that rarely takes its foot off the gas.