‘Threat’ by Hugh Fraser, is the second book to feature Rina Walker, a highly skilled assassin who is in demand from members of London’s gangland. Set in 1961, this story follows Rina as she becomes embroiled in the search for some missing working girls on behalf of Tony Farina. Seven girls have gone missing from the streets, the latest of which was found dead.
Rina’s investigations lead her into a tricky confrontation with a killer who has unexpected connections. When fulfilling her contract puts her sister’s safety at risk, Rina knows that she needs to get Georgie away from London and the deadly lifestyle she has created for herself. This forces Rina to accept an offer of work from an unexpected source in order to ensure that Georgie’s safety is guaranteed.
From undertaking a dangerous assignment for MI6 which puts Rina’s own life at risk, to exposing not only espionage but also the thoroughly depraved actions of a member of the aristocracy, this story is full of action and thrills. This is not a cozy mystery by any stretch and elements of the subject matter is quite dark, although very sensitively and carefully handled, neither glossing over nor over emphasising some of the more objectionable parts of the plot. With the scenes in the secret bunker, it would be easy to go for sensationalism here, but even without that, Fraser still manages to make the scenes disturbing enough, the implications of what is happening abundantly clear.
Rina is a very strong and likeable character. Influenced by her past but determined to make a good life for her sister, as well as bettering herself by reading all of the books that her sister is learning at school. You can easily be forgiven for forgetting that she is an anti-hero, essentially nothing more than a cold blooded killer. The character is not over written and there are no excuses made for what she does. She has a clear sense of right and wrong, but also a survival instinct which makes you root for her, in spite of her choice of career.
The setting of 1960’s London is also an interesting one. It allows the freedom of an alternative lifestyle for Rina, while removing some of the conventional trappings, such as mobile technology, which make setting up a modern crime thriller extremely tricky. I’m not old enough to know anything of the 60s, but the descriptions are so vivid you can really begin to experience the changes in the landscape of London at the time. From dancing in clubs, to carrying a gun on a plane (hard to imagine these days), Fraser writes the contrasts very well. And yet I had to remind myself of the setting at times when thinking about what Rina was preparing for dinner; pie and mash, cans of beans. So pedestrian and normal for an assassin and yet so natural for the time. I don’t know why I wouldn’t expect a killed to be sitting down to pie and mash and yet it did still make me smile.
The plot is dark, the action thrilling and the writing compelling. I really enjoyed this book, and it was a fast read which I got through in less than a day. Don’t be put off by Rina’s lifestyle; you’ll be rooting for her all the way. I was and I can’t wait to read the next instalment.
A thoroughly satisfied 5 stars.
Threat was released on 23rd June 2016 and is available to purchase here:
Thanks to Netgalley and publishers Urbane Publications for my copy of Threat in exchange for my honest review.