The blurb on the back:
'Standing in windswept isolation on the Sussex Downs was Britain's best-known criminal lunatic asylum. 600 men and women whose names sent a shudder down every spine: poisoners, bombers, axe-men, stranglers, child killers...'
'Horrifyingly plausible' - The Times
In which we encounter the combination of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, more than a quarter of a century before Bush and Blair decided to use the same potent image as a pretext for invading wherever they saw fit. Here, however, we get the earlier bogeymen: not Al-Qaeda but communism, not chemical weapons but nuclear material. A new group calling themselves the World Revolutionary Freedom Committee hire a group of freelance terrorists to steal some Strontium 90, which they threaten to unleash on British cities unless their demands for 50 million pounds in gold bullion are met.
It’s a decent enough thriller, written without benefit of chapters to give it a bit of urgency, but it does leave rather too many gaps for my taste. In particular, the demand being monetary rather than political was a little disappointing. And the separation between the ideological revolutionaries and the mercenaries seems more useful in terms of plotting than accurate in terms of reality: did genuinely motivated Marxists employ hired muscle? I have my doubts. However the inclusion of these professionals gives us an opportunity to cast a sideways glance at where Britain has gone off the rails – their leader is a young man who never did fit in:
And in case we’re not fully getting the point about the state of our modern nation, one of the revolutionaries explains why they’ve chosen Britain as their first target:
In other words, this fits comfortably into the rash of 1970s populist thrillers lamenting the decline of the country. A qualified success, then.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5
Jon Burmeister, The Weatherman Guy