SURVIVAL GAME by Philip Kerrigan


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Like his debut Dead Ground (1986), Kerrigan's second thriller plays out in rural isolation: here, on a Scottish isle. But unlike that involving novel, this one--with a mystery killer stalking businesspeople at play in the woods--fails, despite scattered bright patches, to transcend its mundane parts. An uninspired opening--in which a nameless man buys two contraband guns and then kills the gun-dealer--prefaces Kerrigan's introduction of his four main characters, all tightly drawn. They are: millionaire entrepreneur Daniel Goldman; has personal assistant, pretty George Lawrence; his managing director, Peter Bailey; and his bright young turk, Bob Townsend. Sadly, the four are first shown cheating an Englishman out of his business and life's work. And therein lies the rub: with all four characters unappealing, who gives a hoot about their fates? Grisly fates they are, too, as the four take a break from their wheeling and dealing to indulge in a bit of sport--a kind of ""capture the flag"" on a Scottish island Dan's bought--only to be knocked off one at a time by someone. Kerrigan tries (ineffectively) to muster suspense by playing off tired, middle-aged Peter, who didn't like the earlier dirty dealing, against 28-year-old yuppie Bob; (again ineffectively) by throwing a smoke screen around the killer (is it the Englishman the four ruined?); and (at last, effectively) via some taut action writing and hot bursts of violence as the four burrow through the jungle, steps ahead of the killer. Being the nastiest of the lot, Bob bites the bullet first. Dan soon follows, and then it's gorgeous Georgie and pitiful Peter against the man with no name; before the last page, however, Georgie proves that a gal can play the survival game as well as any guy, nameless or not. Kerrigan survives mediocrity in this game, barely; with its uninventive plotting and stock, if slick, characters, this is tolerable fare only.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Crown