Nine hostages. Ten hours. One chance to save them all.
Lee James Connor has found his purpose in life: to follow the teachings of far-right extremist leader, Nicholas Farmer. So when his idol is jailed, he comes up with the perfect plan: take a local immigrant support group hostage until Farmer is released.
Grace Wheatley is no stranger to loneliness having weathered the passing of her husband, whilst being left to raise her son alone. The local support group is her only source of comfort. Until the day Lee James Connor walks in and threatens the existence of everything she’s ever known.
Superintendent Alex Lewis may be one of the most experienced hostage negotiators on the force, but there’s no such thing as a perfect record. Still haunted by his last case, can he connect with Connor – and save his nine hostages – before it’s too late?
Well, where do I start with this book? The book starts at 16.57 with Lee James Connor, a 22 year-old male, he lives in a cramped bed sit hidden away at the back of a run-down Georgian conversion in south-west London. He keeps himself pretty much to himself he knows nothing of his neighbours and they know nothing of him, for most of the day he sleeps and at night he is on his computer. But this day is different this day he has plans. This day is also the end of the trial for Nicholas Farmer, a self proclaimed leader of the banned right-wing group Home Front. Having been found guilty, Farmer is remanded for pre sentencing reports to be done, but the judge has already said his sentence will, be a long one. Connor has made plans for this day.
Not too far away live Grace Wheatley and her teenage son Isaiah, she had been born in the United Kingdom but her parents had come over as part of the Windrush campaign. She is a teaching assistant at a local school, her son is her life.
Superintendent Alex Lewis has had a long day, and is looking forward to getting home early in the hope of seeing his two teenage boys before they go off to play football. His marriage is on the rocks. He has just been reinstated as an on call hostage negotiator after an investigation into his last negotiating job had led to a death. None of it had been Alex’s fault. He had the all clear to go back on the rota.
Grace has agreed to help Rosie Phillips the church curate that evening, she arrives early to set out chairs and get the place ready for whoever turns out that evening. Normally there would be a reasonable amount of people, but Rosie explains she is not expecting many as it is the schools parents evening. They are expecting a refugee family Mariam and her two children Rahel and Ittack, they are Syrian Christian’s unfortunately they don’t speak much English and the interpreter can’t make it due to ill health. as Rosie expected it is only a small turnout of nine. Lee had expected a more people, when he had checked before there had been at least double the amount of people, but maybe this is better easier to manage, he is determined to see his plan though. As he looks through the window he sees three brown faces and two black, enough for what he wants. Initially no one notices him enter the building as they are singing heads bowed. As the hymn comes to an end Rosie spots Lee and walks to welcome him, but she is told to sit down, when she doesn’t do so immediately things change as he hits her in the face with his fist and a gun.
I was hooked on this from the first page until the last, the opening scenes we get to know a little about Lee James Connor, Grace Wheatley, and Alex Lewis. Despite there being a number of other characters these are the three that are the narrators. Once we know a little about each of their lives the rest of the story takes place in the church hall. This becomes one gripping read.
As Alex along with 2 other negotiators have to work out how to approach the conversation with Lee, trying to find out what he wants, and why? As the night gradually goes on the tension builds with Lee’s agitation and paranoia building not helped by the amount of As other teams look into Lee’s background, searching his flat but he has been prepared for everything even leaving them letters and a computer telling them his manifesto. He calls himself the Home Front Liberator. He had watched a rewatched everything farmer had ever written, knowing it all off by heart.
Grace is a courageous lady, and as the time passes she talks to Lee at the risk of being hit or worse, being of colour puts her at more risk. As Alex negotiates with Lee he is taken back to his last job, the death of the hostage taker haunts him. At times he finds it difficult to do this knowing one false move could cost a life of even nine lives or ten if you count the hostage taker.
This is a well written story, with some great character’s they are all so believable, Grace’s compassion towards Lee despite being held as a hostage is so well written as she tries to get him to open up, and as she tells him some of her life story. I actually felt sorry for Lee. I certainly didn’t at the beginning but as things unfolded I wanted him to survive, I was truly hoping he would survive, knowing that a lot of the time the hostage taker is killed.
One of the interesting things I found was about how the algorithm of You Tube works, Lee had been radicalised on the internet, everything he read or watched he believed, it was explained that when you watch something on you tube the algorithm will find other things that match what you are watching, which makes sense I know when I have watched something, it will come up with other suggestions I might like, but it is also down to money as well. It also explains where you see so many against the vaccine for covid if you start watching a video on that, then more will come up but it means you are not getting a true picture of anything as you are only watching one side of the argument which then reinforces what you already believe. For Lee he had never been out protesting, he had never met Farmer, he had just been watching video’s on immigrants coming to the UK and taking our jobs, houses, and trying to take over the country and he became completely radicalised just from watching. Outside the church hall there was a sign saying Immigrants Welcome.
But how will the story end? Will all the hostages survive? Will Lee survive? I read this in one sitting, unable to put it down, I needed to know how things would end. This is a well thought out plot, the tension builds to the climactic ending. Definitely worth a read. Grab a copy now you will not be disappointed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Sutherland is a married father of three, who lives with his wife and children in South London. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1992, serving for more than 25 years until his retirement in 2018. Having won the Baton of Honour as the outstanding recruit in his training school intake, he rose through the ranks to become a highly respected senior officer. During his career, he worked in a variety of roles across the Capital, both in uniform and as a detective. He is an experienced Hostage & Crisis Negotiator and Premier League Football Match Commander. His last operational posting was as the Borough Commander for Southwark.
John is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, ‘Blue: A Memoir’ and ‘Crossing the Line’, which was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the week. His first thriller, ‘The Siege’ is being published in 2022.
Social Media Links:
- Twitter: @policecommander
- Website: policecommander.wordpress.com