Review: Max Kinnings – Baptism

Given the masses of people that use London’s underground every day, I’m surprised that there haven’t been more crime novels set on the tube. Although Baptism by Max Kinnings opens with the murder of a monk in Snowdonia, most if the action is centred around the hijacking of a London underground train and the attempts by a negotiator to secure the hostages’ freedom. For those of us who use the tube, of course, this is your worst nightmare and the author cleverly plays on all your fears in this fast-paced book.

George, a train driver on the underground, begins his morning with a familiar routine; waking up his young family and kissing his wife goodbye. However, he receives a phone call that reveals his wife and children are being held hostage and is given instructions to proceed to work as usual and follow the captor’s instructions. The day descends into nightmare as the kidnapper enters his cab and instructs him to halt the train between stations. In the sweltering summer’s day, the passengers don’t initially realise the gravity of the situation.

When two armed policeman sent down on a reconnaissance mission are killed Ed Mallory, an experienced hostage negotiator, is tasked with talking to the hijackers led by a religious fanatic and former soldier. When George leaves the telephone line open, the negotiating team realise that the kidnappers intend to use water to add a terrifying dimension to this already horrifying situation.

The book had a strong opening and I was interested to see how the narrative would develop. Kinnings has created two good protagonists – George the family man who never intended to become a train driver, and Ed, the blind hostage negotiator. I liked the back story to George, a failed poet and muscian who has never had the courage to follow his dreams. Ed also was given an interesting background – and I can belive that a blind negotiator could use his intuition effectivey in these kinds of situations. For me, the violence was slightly too strong and not for the faint hearted but it did fit in with the dynamic narrative and brutal situation.

I can’t see many people wanting to read this on the tube, but other than that I think it makes a fast moving and enjoyable read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Other reviews can be found at Eurocrime and Crime Fiction Lover. The author’s website is here.

13 thoughts on “Review: Max Kinnings – Baptism

  1. Interesting idea but not keen on hostage dramas. Hasn’t a blind negotiator (or detective) already been done by Jeffrey Deaver? Anyway, I agree that this does not sound like one to read on the tube!


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Thanks for this review. I agree with you that the character of George Wakeham is done very very well (I like his wife’s character too). And Kinnings captures the fear and sense of claustrophobia too that one would feel if one were trapped in a tube like that. But yes, the violence is a not for the faint of heart…


  3. I’m still not sure about this one though review does tempt me – but am not hugely into hostage dramas and am wary of ‘let’s make our protag interesting by giving them a disability’ – can be done well but is sometimes patronising


  4. It sounds like a good concept, but not great for those of us who are less than whole-hearted about the Tube even on a good day! Maybe, as you say, to read when a long way from London….


    1. Hi – no the Welsh connection isn’t strong here at all. Most of the action is set in London. However, I can recommend a good book set on the Welsh borders – Good People by Ewart Hutton. I haven’t read it myself but it comes highly recommended and it is on my list to read. It’s been nominated for a CWA Award. I’d be interested to know what you think.


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