Simon Kernick’s action thrillers have earned him a massive readership, and it’s easy to see why. He specialises in placing his characters in extreme jeopardy right from the outset – and keeping them there all the way to a dramatic finale. The pace is fast, there is plenty of violence and the stakes are invariably high.
Target is his latest, and it features a psychopathic villain, a nasty criminal mastermind, and a kidnapping with a clever financial motive that turns out to be very different from the conventional ransom demand. I gulped it down very quickly, and was reminded, as with previous Kernick books, of my old favourite Francis Durbridge.
Kernick and Durbridge are writers of different generations, but both specialists in the cliffhanger chapter ending – and they are very good at building suspense in a manner that is genuinely thrilling. Both are unpretentious writers who share a real commitment to lively entertainment that deserves respect.
Target reads like a book that has been written quickly, and writing at speed is a method which has much to commend it when working on a thriller, because it helps to enhance the sheer relentlessness of the twists and turns of the narrative. The dictates of the story mean that there isn’t much scope for character development (although, as usual, we have the trusted character who turns out not to be what he or she seems) and there isn’t much in the way of atmospheric setting – but you get what you pay for, and readers who like an exciting roller coaster ride will be well satisfied. .