Herron (Why We Die, 2006, etc.) works some nifty changes on the familiar story of a terrorist who takes refuge—and hostages—in a London preschool.
Jaime Segura’s day begins when he emerges from a rest-stop toilet to find a car with two armed men wanting a word with him. As he runs from them, one of them is struck by a passing car, and Jaime pauses long enough to take his pistol before disappearing. The next time he’s seen, he’s using the gun to encourage Eliot Pedlar to unlock the gate to his twin sons’ preschool. This early in the day, before the staff and students have arrived, the only people waiting inside are Louise Kennedy, an assistant teacher with an unusual background in banking, and Judith Ainsworth, a cleaner and widow. Despite the vigilance of the young man with the gun, Louise manages to alert a security guard to contact the police, and the six ill-assorted souls sit and stew while they await further developments. Chief among these is the arrival of Ben Whistler, an accountant from the Soho office of MI6 whose presence Jaime has demanded. Herron’s kaleidoscopic presentation makes it challenging to fit even the most basic pieces of the puzzle together, but eventually it becomes clear that Her Majesty’s Government has recently lost £250 million to Miro Weiss, Jaime’s vanished lover, and Bad Sam Chapman, among others at MI6, is convinced that Jaime knows where the thief and the money are. At least that’s the official story. Taking a page from Jeffery Deaver, however, Herron makes sure nothing and no one is exactly what he, she or it seems to be, and every action that seems destined to clarify the situation ends up cutting two ways.
Ingenious and heartfelt, though like Deaver, Herron is so eager to pile on the plot twists that he risks serious reader fatigue.