When ex-mercenary Max Iversson accompanies a nightclub owner to an ill-fated rendezvous in a deserted north London industrial estate, it turns out to be not so much a set-up as a bloodbath. Three men have been shot, the briefcase Iversson has been guarding is empty--and he wants to know why.
So begins a hunt for answers that will take him into direct conflict with Detective Sergeant John Gallan--and take both men into very dangerous territory.
If British author Kernick's second gritty crime novel doesn't quite measure up to his superb debut, The Business of Dying (2003), with which it shares a few secondary characters, it still has plenty of rewards, including two first-person narrators. The paths of Max Iversson, a former mercenary now working as a private security guard, and Det. Sgt. John Gallan, an honest and dedicated officer trying to regain his previous rank as an inspector, intersect after a routine bodyguard job goes disastrously wrong for Iversson, resulting in the murder of his client and the death of the two other hired guards. The body count continues to climb as various members of a vicious London gang with connections to the Balkans turn up dead while Gallan's pursuit of Iversson continues. Both narrators adopt a slightly arch comic tone, which makes the story less dark and less powerful than The Business of Dying, but the clever writing ("he delivered his lines with all the urgency of Roger Moore's James Bond, like he might fall asleep before the end of the sentence") and numerous plot twists will engage many readers. Kernick again manages to adhere to the best fair-play traditions of classic murder mysteries while spinning a highly untraditional tale. The mix of brutality and humor should appeal to Elmore Leonard fans.