The latest from the best-selling British author (The Business of Dying, 2003, etc.); this thriller was partially inspired by a 2008 terror attack in Mumbai.
What would you do if the only way to save your two children was to betray your colleagues and send them into an ambush? A group of gunmen takes over the fictional Stanhope Hotel in London, killing anyone who shows the remotest hint of resistance. They rig the hotel with explosives to prevent either rescue or escape. Apparently, an unnamed Arab government is behind the attack, but the terrorists are hard-core mercenaries instead of Arabs. Some of them are ex-soldiers who fought in Iraq, serving the interests of the rich and powerful, and they feel they’ve gotten nothing in return for their sacrifices. They feel wronged by the system, so their goal is to humiliate British authorities and bring down the government. The AK 47–toting Fox wants to “cause chaos and terror, to smash the old, established order,” not to liberate Palestine or high-tail it with a bundle of cash. Meanwhile, the British authorities do their best to negotiate from their vantage point of weakness. Of course, the bad guys will have a hard time leaving the hotel alive, but do they even want to escape? So the siege—but not the story—is at a standstill. A couple of subplots keep things moving, for example, witness Martin Dalston, whose intended suicide is interrupted by the chaos. Meticulous plotting makes this a fast-moving yarn with short chapters, tight writing, plenty of violence, and characters both flawed and believable.
Kernick is a first-rate storyteller. Readers will have no trouble hating this book's bad guys, who lack even a glimmer of humanity.