I am absolutely thrilled to be one of today’s stops on the blog tour for Deadly Game the latest Robert Finlay thriller from Matt Johnson and Orenda Books. I read the first book a couple of weeks back and being an action thriller it was right up my street. When I got asked to take part in this tour, I just couldn’t resist. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment, but first, here’s the bookish bits.
The Official Book Blurb
Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed.
Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all …
Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.
Deadly Game is a stunning, terrifying and eye-opening thriller from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
Now I love me a good action thriller, I really do. I adored the first book in the series, Wicked Game, because it gave me everything I wanted from a book. Tension, action and a central character I could really get behind. It was a stunning debut from an author who has been through so very much in his life and career that the authenticity simply rang through the narrative. So, with all that being said, I had really high hopes for book two. I was not disappointed.
Picking up just after where book one left off, Robert Finlay and his wife Jenny are trying hard to return to a normal life. That’s not easy when you’re a Police Officer who’s had a terrorist target on your back. Understandably it can make your colleagues nervous. So when Grahamslaw offers Finlay a lifeline and a transfer to a new Sex Crimes Unit, there really is no way he can pass it up. It means a move to plain clothes as a Detective, something he has no experience of, but at least he still has a job.
Now because of this, because the terrorist threat has been all but eliminated, and Finlay will be investigating people dealing in sex trafficking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be hard to keep up the same level of action and tension that was found in the first book. It is absolutely still there. It’s a different kind of action, of tension, there’s no denying that, but it still grabs you, jangles your nerves and makes the heart pump that little bit faster.
Far from the bombings and assassinations which dominated the first story, this book feels almost, I don’t know, somewhat more controlled. Instead of facing terrorists who want their message to be heard loud and clear, for whom the violence had become personal, Finlay is now dealing with criminals who specialise in a different kind of terror. People who on the surface are completely respectable and yet who hide a core of pure evil. They may be more private in their retribution, yet are no less clear in their message. They are driven by greed, by a complete lack of respect for human life and by the absolute need for power.
Despite this being a seemingly straightforward job, Finlay is still drawn into rescue missions (above and below both land and sea), gun fights and some real old fashioned espionage with the Spooks of MI5 and MI6 both starting to feature more heavily within the story. We also start to learn more about what really led to the events in Wicked Game and whether Finlay and Jones can finally sleep soundly at night, all threats extinguished. I am loving the central thread, the conspiracy which is building behind the scenes, and which holds both threat and promise for future books.
With Finlay, Matt Johnson has developed a brilliant central protagonist. Not the archetypal action hero, but still someone I was more than happy to go on this journey with. He is human, fallible; he makes mistakes. He suffers from night terrors brought on by his time in the Armed Forces and exacerbated by the recent attempt on his life. Even his attempts at relaxation don’t go particularly smoothly, leading him into danger, partly of MI5’s making, but certainly setting up a thread of conflict perfect for future plot lines. Finlay loves his family, respects his colleagues and just seems to be a genuinely nice bloke. He has a real essence of reluctant hero about him, and an enquiring mind which never really accepts things on face value. He is an all round good guy and an overwhelmingly endearing kind of hero. I love him.
While we see less of Jones in this book, Finlay is ably supported by Nina Brasov, a formidable Detective Sergeant who is as strong of mind as she is of body and who is a refreshing change to the usual stereotypes of female Detectives. And then there is Toni Fellowes, assigned as Finlay and Jenny’s liaison officer from MI5, but as ruthless as anyone else when it comes to using Finlay to further her own career. These are two characters who act as a contradiction, a counter almost, to what could easily have become a portrayal of women only as victims. Even Finlay’s wife Jenny has a true strength and presence of mind, is amazingly astute and provides emotional support and logical thinking for Finlay, making her his perfect match. This pairing adds a certain something to the book and Jenny is every bit as endearing and engaging as Finlay.
The book started out with a really strong focus on the sex-slave trade which has been growing out of Eastern European countries, and which has become more and more prevalent in the consciousness of the public today than it was back when the book as set. Bear in mind this is set in the immediate aftermath of the 911 bombings and we (the public) were probably still relatively ignorant of the scale of the problem facing young European women even back then. By and large this plot played out throughout the whole book, resulting in an almost siege like rescue scene at the end, the tension palpable as Finlay desperately fought to save a colleague. But by the end of the book it felt like there had been a real shift in direction, particularly from where we first met Finlay and Jones, just weeks before in Wicked Game. There is the promise of so many secrets yet to be revealed; of a story which is not ready to let the reader go just yet, and I for one can’t wait to read more.
A tension filled and heroic deep-sea diving 5 stars from me.
My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing the advance copy of Deadly Game and for inviting me to join the blog tour. The book is available now and can be purchased from the following sites:
About the Author
Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for 25 years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll.
In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition.
His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game once again draws on Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @
You can purchase Wicked Game, the first book in the Robert Finlay series by selecting the image below. My review can be found here.
Make sure to stop by some of the other blogs taking part in the tour: