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Monday 22 January 2024

DEADLY GAME - Book review


Michael Caine’s debut novel Deadly Game (2023) is a good solid thriller.

DCI Harry Turner is a tough nut who doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. ‘Harry hated the phrase “old-school copper” – especially when applied to him, as it often was round the Met. Yes, he liked to get the job done. Yes, he could throw a punch as well as take one. And no, he didn’t think police officers were social workers or local politicians. Their job was law enforcement: pure and simple. Not therapy’ (p26). He was ex-Army, ex-SAS and served in Helmand, Columbia, Georgia and Myanmar – until a sports knee injury got him – ‘It was a tackle that got me, not the Taliban’ (p28). After that, he joined the Met.

Harry joined an elite team in department SO22, headed up by DCS Robinson – a team created because the ‘Met had lost its balls, lost its focus and was too busy covering its arse to make the calls that get proper bad guys behind bars’ (p34).

Then, one day, on Harry’s doorstep, so to speak, a metal box of radioactive material is found at a dump in Stepney, East London. Unfortunately, before the police can arrive, it goes missing. Harry and his team (DI John Williams, Inspector Carol Walker, and Sergeant Iris Davies) are tasked with finding the missing uranium before it gets into the wrong hands.

It seems that an unsavoury criminal gang is involved, and far-right skinheads, and also an aristocratic art Dealer, Julian Smythe and oligarch Vladimir Voldrev; these latter two are quite creepy, each confronted in their own personal fiefdom/lair.

Throughout, whenever Harry is speaking – or thinking – I tend to hear Michael Caine’s voice; the writing and characterisation is that consistent. ‘I think it’s time to prick this prick’s bubble... I don’t believe in ghosts myself. Personally, I believe in crooks and the way they terrorise people. It’s not magic. It’s the oldest trick in history, and it’s always the poorest that get ripped off most’ (p145).

There are deaths along the way, and a shocking explosion, as the team seems to be getting close to their goal. The pace rarely lets up, the pages keep turning, and the denouement contains a neat twist.

Perhaps the swearing could have been reduced by a third - most is apt, in character, but sometimes it seems gratuitous.

I’d be happy to make the acquaintance of Harry Turner again.

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