The Last 10 Seconds by Simon Kernick

UK police thriller – pacy page-turner, with plenty of implausible twists worthy of a fantasy novel.

Below is part of the book’s blurb: a standard teaser that’s becoming passé. I suspect the proliferation of crime novels on the market necessitates such ‘stimuli’ to attract readers, but the same seasoned material is pedalled out time and again.

‘A man, a woman, a sadistic killer. As they race towards a terrifying confrontation only one thing is certain: they’re all going to fight very hard just to stay alive.’

Wow – I don’t think. Come on – this is par for the course. Can’t publishers dream-up something new?

This is the ninth book by the author – and it’s good, but not great. All of Kernick’s books have similar plots: main character (DI Tina Boyd) with a drink problem has a single-minded cavalier approach to policing. Add main character undercover cop (Sean Egan) who is determined to be more ruthless than the criminals in the name of justice. Mix in a serial killer whose alleged killing of one victim is linked to a much wider criminal conspiracy – and watch the body count rise.

The action scenes teeter on the edge of credibility, e.g. the undercover cop, Sean Egan manages to perform heroics worthy of Robocop whilst on crutches, plus having a bandaged gut-shot exit wound the size of a golf ball.

The master criminal seems to have the constitution of a Terminator robot, despite Egan’s attempts to nail him. At the climax with DI Boyd eventually appearing on centre stage (without a glass of wine in her hand and bemoaning the fact that her career would be finished – yet again) to confront the master criminal, and miraculously with one bullet left in Egan’s gun, and with the last ten seconds of Egan’s life ebbing away… there is a dramatic twist.

I have to admire the pace, but I felt the characterisation lacked sparkle – there were no relationship issues – the insipid love interest between Sean and Tina never got to first base – and the serial killer (what serial killer?) was a sham who never came into the picture except to provide background to the story. That was a bit naughty.

I also didn’t like the ‘prologue’ – it just didn’t work. Maybe the publishers thought that an action scene would hook readers in straight away – but it just confused the story and gave away what was going to happen at the end. Ignore it – start straight into Chapter One.

However – I doubt that my less than favourable critique would inhibit any Kernick fan from buying it. Three stars for pace.

His earlier books were far better. Your choice.

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