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.