In this chillingly plausible thriller, CWA Gold Dagger winner Mick Herron proves he “never tells a suspense story in the expected way” (The New York Times Book Review).
When a highly classified espionage operation breaks down, an MI5 prisoner escapes from a transport vehicle on the busy ring road outside Oxford. Now an armed and desperate man is on the loose. He has taken refuge in a preschool, where a collection of teachers, parents, and students were about to start their day. No one understands what Jaime Segura wants, and he refuses to speak to anyone but an MI6 spy named Ben Whistler, a coworker of Jaime’s boyfriend, who has gone missing. Now, as law enforcement descends upon this quiet corner of Oxfordshire, Jaime holds the preschool hostage as his collateral, and one teacher, Louise Kennedy, finds herself in the terrifying position of protecting innocent children from the terrible decisions of the adults around them. As Louise steels her nerves and weighs her every decision, she also begins to put together the fragments the truth from the chaos around her—and no one is fiercer or more resourceful than a teacher on the trail of justice.
Near the start of this masterful thriller from Herron (Why We Die), Jaime Segura, a young immigrant to Britain with a gun, takes several hostages one morning at the South Oxford Nursery School, including a teacher, the school's cleaner, parent Eliot Pedlar and Pedlar's three-year-old twin sons. Jaime is confused and afraid but he's not crazy, and what he wants becomes apparent very slowly. Though Secret Service agent Ben Whistler's usual beat is the MI6 accounting department, he's summoned to the nursery school after Jaime tells the surrounding police that Ben is the only one he'll talk to. Then there's the matter of the quarter of a billion pounds that's been stolen from the Service. How Herron is able to tie all these events together will test the sleuthing ability of even the most savvy readers as one surprise engenders another. The intricate plot, coupled with Herron's breezy writing style ("Ben Whistler looked like what you got when you thought about a rugby player, then fixed his teeth"), results in superior entertainment that makes most other novels of suspense appear dull and slow-witted by comparison.