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by Max Kinnings
Quercus, July 2012
320 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 1780871813

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The time-stamped blurb on the back of the book gives a reasonable flavour of the contents, and as I'm a sucker for a good hijack or siege story, this looked like one that I was likely to enjoy. The central premise, that of a London Underground train stopped in a tunnel, obviously for sinister reasons, is a good one, and it was enticing enough to carry me through a somewhat slow start. Unfortunately, crazy monks are reminiscent of the worst aspects of Dan Brown, but I can well understand why any author wants to break away from the ubiquitous al-Qaeda bad guys, so in that respect, a change is as good as a rest.

A train on the Northern line comes to a halt in one of the tunnels and neither the control room nor the passengers know why, but suspicions soon mount. Temperatures rise, both literally and metaphorically. Timestamps are used to good effect throughout the book, making it clear when and where each segment of the action is taking place. The chapters are short, but not irritatingly so, making the resemblance to Dan Brown little more than skin deep, and the internal cliffhangers are used well, but not over-used. The characters are real people, not stereotypes, and George Wakeham, the claustrophobic train driver desperate to save his wife and children, is the glue that holds the book together.

Kinnings takes his time introducing one of the main characters, blind police negotiator DCI Ed Mallory, but that time was well spent, and as soon as the main action in the tunnel was underway, I was hooked. As tempers amongst the train's unsuspecting passengers begin to fray, the tension is ratcheted up another few notches as a further threat to them becomes apparent. Mallory then has to form a very unlikely alliance with a man who has no cause whatsoever to want to help him. On the train, George is doing his best to stay calm and work with the hostage-taker, religious fanatic Tommy Denning, whilst Mallory does his best to talk him down from outside the tunnels.

There are plenty of thrills and spills that were able to drag me along fast enough that I could almost overlook some very confusing point of view shifts in the narrative and some irritating grammatical errors. Surely one character out of all of them would manage to say 'try to' rather than 'try and'? Whenever I came across that, a vision of my predecessor, Sharon Wheeler, pointing a sharp editorial finger comes vividly to mind, and she would also roll her eyes, as I did, over the use of WPC for female police officers, a term that hasn't been current for at least 20 years. But those niggles aside, BAPTISM provides characters to care about and a great scenario. This is a book worth picking up and well worth sticking with.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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