Serpentine, by Tom Morton. Mainstream Publishing, £9.99.
This interesting new thriller from Tom Morton is about The IRA, terrorists, golf, bomb plots, sabotage, murders, corruption and violence in the extreme.
The book is set initially in Gaza, as the hero of the story, Mark Murricane, is kidnapped while trying to free an already kidnapped businessman. Murricane seems to accept being kidnapped as all part of his job and he manages to extricate himself and the businessman very cleverly – and ends up £300,000 richer too.
Jump swiftly to Inverness where Mark hurries to the side of Millie Fairweather. Millie’s lesbian lover has been murdered and Millie seems to be the next person on the hitman’s list.
The book reads as pure escapism, but parts of the story are based around real events. Suspend your disbelief about the way that police officers might behave and read on. Even if the shootings and graphically described beatings don’t appeal, the book is excellent in its attention to detail and meticulous research, not only about terrorism, but also about the activity of various government and police departments.
Inverness and the surrounding areas are so well described that people only vaguely familiar with the city will relish the way in which the landmarks are brought to life so that the reader is quickly drawn in almost to feeling that they could be in the scene being described in the book.
The same applies to the little details, the interiors of buildings, the canal bank, the hills around Inverness.
Murricane, the Shetlander hero of the story, has to protect Millie, who he secretly loves of course, only he can’t get that close to her because she has been having a lesbian affair with Freya Enderby who is murdered in the first few pages of the book. But who by?
Zander Flaws is the police officer called in to try to solve the murder, but he is more interested in sleeping with the local pathologist at various murder scenes in Inverness and so it remains with Murricane to go in to rescue and retrieve vulnerable people.
But is Murricane a goodie or a baddie and how much does he really know?
I believe it is Zander Flaws who is narrating the story but in parts it is very difficult to tell.
The book is not easy to read as it has different viewpoints so jumps from first person to third person and sometimes on the same page, so you have to be really on the ball to keep up.
But do not let this put you off. I found the very fast pace of the book challenging, but it made me re-read passages to make sure I had not missed out. I would even go as far as to say it is a book perhaps worth reading twice as rather like a painting, more details come out on second examination. It is not the sort of book you can read last thing at night and it certainly won’t lull you into a nice sleep, and you certainly won’t fall asleep through boredom because the book is a page turner, no doubt about that.
It could give you nightmares though as you begin to wonder just how much goes on behind closed doors in government departments that the public at large really do not ever get to hear about.
What is Mark’s job exactly? The book mentions spooks so we think MI5 and then maybe not? MI6? Is Mark Murricane in the SAS? All these things let the reader ponder and it is part of the writer’s skill in developing his characters that the reader is left to piece together a rather convoluted and intricate puzzle.
It all works out in the end, though right up until the very last minute the reader is left to wonder how on earth Morton is going to tie together so many loose ends, in a book that mentions nearly 20 characters in the first 50 pages, but he does so admirably.
Hold on tight for a real rollercoaster read as the “set up” on Turnberry golf course at the beginning of the book comes full circle to lead to a really explosive climax. This is real boys’ own stuff. If you want to read a really macho adventure story then this might just be this summer’s top read in the genre.