Relentless – Simon Kernick

Relentless There comes a point in one’s crime fiction reading life when a fast-paced thriller is sought out.  I’d been meaning to read my copy of Relentless way before now, but I inadvertently lost it.  Lo and behold, I stumbled across it recently and set about reading it.  I needed a “fast” fix.

A crime fiction reading friend had read it over one or two days.  I told him when I started it.  He said: “And I bet you’ve almost finished by now then”.  This was true.  I had about 80 pages to finish the novel and plans on how to arrange the rest of my life around reading it, where possible.

He already knew what I now know: this is not a novel to put down and pick up again on a slow Sunday.  It demands to be read in one sitting, such is its pace.  It fulfils its title; it is indeed relentless reading.

In a nutshell: John Meron, who has been a happily married father of two and never in trouble in his life to date, receives a phone call that puts his life on hold for a moment.  He hears his former best friend – they subsequently lost touch, as happens in life – begging for his help down the line and vocally expressing the sort of pain that means death is imminent.  His friend, Jack Calley, also utters his last words and these make up the first two lines of Meron’s address.  With his wife in situ at her university doing some necessary work, Meron reacts quickly to protect his children.  But all is never enough and the keen chase from those he knows nothing about closes tightly…

Confused and terrified, Meron scoops up his children and hurries out of the house.  Just in time.  Within minutes, a car pulls up outside, and three men get out.  It’s clear that they’re coming for Meron.  He’s being hunted and has no idea why.  And, with his wife now not in contact, and an unidentified corpse in her office, and with the police after him for murder, Meron’s life’s about to get one hell of a lot worse.

Phew!  Yes, phew!  This is high-octane stuff.  It’s un-put-downable, with no obvious place to take a sleep refuge.  The final ending veers on a drawn-out potential disappointment (it halts and then continues with respect to plot, finally filling the gaps), but the story, as a whole, is page turning to almost that end.

If you seek a fast-paced thriller, this is one for you.  Kernick makes it hard to sleep for the reader – it’s all real time and you just have to know what happens next.

Simon Kernick:  one to watch, if you’ve already missed the boat or if you think you’ve already caught it elsewhere…  This author knows his stuff when it comes to suspense and intrigue.  He also does page turning with such vigour that The Hamster might want to give up driving and read more. It’s a lot safer to read, Mr Hammond.