Breathless pace. Sudden death. The clock relentlessly ticking. The tension in solicitor Nicholas Clough’s latest novel tightens remorselessly from the terrorist kidnapping in the opening pages to the blood-soaked surprise ending.
The novel’s lead character is flawed hero Marcus Denning, a veteran intelligence officer with a drug habit courtesy of the terrorists who snatched him from the streets of Beirut. Denning resisted the terrorists’ brutal interrogation methods, which included electric shocks, sleep deprivation and beatings, but has been left mentally scarred by a ‘black depression’ that can be alleviated only by injecting illegal drugs.
The leader of these terrorists re-emerges 11 years later, this time with the ruthlessly executed robbery of a bank in Atlanta, Georgia. It becomes apparent that the bank raid is to finance an operation on the US mainland, but where? There are false leads, more innocent victims and a bloody climax, all contributing to what is a compulsive page-turner.
But before this review becomes a paean to pulp fiction, there are weaknesses in the novel’s plotting. Denning – whose carelessness, after all, led to his abduction by the terrorists – is maybe just too clever. He alone of the good guys spots the bomb that has been smuggled into their room.
And he alone is able to decipher the coded message somewhat conveniently found in the property of a dead terrorist. The code, Denning tells us, depends on ‘random digits using a Lagged Fibonacci Generator’ (Google it and discover that an LFG is an example of a pseudorandom number generator). By rendering the message into plain English, the whole plot is exposed.
It is not just Denning who is ‘too’ anything. The politicians are too self-serving and cynical and the press too venal and easily manipulated (but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?).
These criticisms are perhaps harsh when discussing a book whose strength lies in its fast-moving action and dialogue. Read it, suspend disbelief and enjoy – with or without your very own LFG.
Author: Nicholas J Clough
£19.99, Robert Hale Limited
Jonathan Rayner is Gazette staff writer