I discovered Simon Kernick quite a few years ago, long before he had been declared a Sunday Times ‘Bestselling Author’ but I hadn’t read anything by him for a while, something I put right with his latest offering, Ultimatum.
I should say from the start that this is a lad’s book, so if your tastes run in a gentler direction then you may as well stop reading right here!
Kernick’s books are always gritty and heavy on the sudden violence, and certainly not deep on character development and motivation. However, they are always fast-paced and entertaining.
Ultimatum is a continuation of his previous novel Siege in which a shadowy neo-fascist group is attempting to ignite public opinion by staging terrorist acts and pinning the blame on Muslim extremists.
His main protagonist if DC Tina Boyd, a character he has used extensively in several previous novels, but one of the tricks that Kernick pulls off well is to alternate the reader’s perspective as the narrative switches between the various characters in the book.
Ultimatum starts with a bang, quite literally, when a rucksack bomb goes off in a crowded coffee bar in central London. It appears to be a random act of terror, but it has an even more sinister purpose.
A phone call to the media claims responsibility for the atrocity on behalf of a Muslim organisation with the threat of an even greater attack unless the government accedes to the usual demands to withdraw from Afghanistan etc within the next twelve hours.
The book then follows a cast of characters throughout that day that features ex-military insurgents, an ad-hoc undercover agent, Albanian arms dealers, a South African assassin, as well as the forces of law and order.
As I said earlier, Kernick’s books are extremely fast-paced and I finished Ultimatum in less than a day. If you enjoy thrillers then you’ll find it a satisfying read.
If I have one gripe it is the fairly right-wing views of the protagonists that you suspect reflect Kernick’s personal world view, butthat would be nit-picking over what is an adrenalin thriller.