Today it is my absolute pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for End Game by Matt Johnson, the third and final 😦 thriller in the Robert Finlay series. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the tour and to publisher, Orenda Books for providing an advance copy of the book for review. It is a bitter sweet post as I love this series and am sad to see it end, but I’ll share my thoughts on the book with you just as soon as we’ve taken a look at what it’s all about.
About the Book
Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout.
Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services.
End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.
So… Can I just have a moment please. I’m in mourning. The end of yet another brilliant series. This seems to be the year for it and I am having a very hard time …
But oh my. What an ending. I have loved this series since I listened to the first book, Wicked Game on audiobook whilst on my travels up and down the country. I love a bit of an action thriller and I love a good police procedural and this series has always given me the best of both worlds. Daring chases, explosions, high action and high tension scenes, all centred around a man who you cannot help but love and with a central theme which keeps the reader hooked and engrossed from the off. I am so going to miss this.
If you haven’t read the first two books in the series (and if not, why not?) then you may find yourself at a small disadvantage when coming to the start of End Game as it is exactly what it says on the cover. The end of the game. The final play. A fight to the death as it were. Live or die – it is all in the decisions you make and maybe a little bit in the lap of the gods.
The main premise of this book, one which has fed through the previous novels, is the desire to either uncover or cover up, depending on which side of the action you are on, the existence of a manuscript which tells of the plans and organisation of a political and religious faction that could pose a significant threat to the safety of the country, if not the world. Some would have it hidden as knowledge of its contents could compromise the security services, others would wish to leverage the monetary value of such knowledge. No matter which side of the fence you are on, the one thing that is certain is that people are willing to kill for this.
Robert Finlay is very much on the side of right and not wrong, but in a game played by Spooks and Politicians, it is hard to know quite what this means. What is clear is that someone is out to get Finlay and his friend and former Army colleague, Kevin Jones. But how far will they go? Well … pretty far as it happens, with Jones framed for the murder of his girlfriend and Finlay in the frame for assisting him. Now there are circumstances which precede this, factors which play into the hands of those who would see them taken down which take the reader right back to the very first book, but they are explained enough, or at least referred to, so you may have enough knowledge to make sense of what is happening. Not enough to be spoilers mind so you can still go back and catch up.
I love the way in which Matt Johnson has created Finlay. Similar to his own story, Finlay is a man who has been through highly volatile and difficult situations, the trauma of this manifesting itself as PTSD and night tremors. Each event which unfurls impacts him in ways that you could not understand, but he uses his training, the counselling he has received and the support of his wife, Jenny, to get him through. He is a highly principled man and one you have to admire. He is loyal to a fault, determined and the almost perfect action hero. And in this book we get to see another side of his character as he finds himself involved in a hostage negotiation with a former soldier whose story he recognises well. Whilst many admire his skill in talking the man down, another would use his actions against him. Superintendent Mellor. He really is a miserable and cantankerous sod.
Another character I have grown to love in this series is Jones, although Mr Johnson shows us another, perhaps unexpected side to his character in this book. I was warned but I still wasn’t expecting that lol. Jones is less, how should I phrase it … ‘refined’ and perhaps a bit more gung ho than Finlay, which compliments his nature perfectly but again his loyalty is never in question and he can provide some of the lighter moments. Well at least until he is set up for murder, then it all takes a darker turn. Supported by some fantastic characters, Jenny, Toni, Grahamslaw, Nell and Stuart, they really drive the story and it is largely through the strength of their friendship that you find yourself drawn into the story as much as the thrilling nature of the plot.
Matt Johnson has created a really great back story and central story arc for the series and it is brought to a conclusion in End Game. All the lose ends, the threads from the previous two books, are pulled together here and everything, all the unconfirmed but half suspected links between characters, become very clear. Mixing more grounded moments, such as the scenes where Finlay acts as negotiator, with scenes of tense action where Finlay’s and Jones’ lives are very much under threat, you are taken on a complete rollercoaster of a ride. It is a ride you are happy to be on, no matter the ups and downs, twists and turns and one, if you are like me, you are very, very sad to see come to an end.
I have loved to see the development of this story, thoroughly enjoyed the way in which you get the blend of third person narrative with elements of the story and then first person as Finlay takes the helm. The way in which the author has captured all emotions, good and bad, fear and anxiety, passion and compassion, and turned them into something brilliant on the page. And ultimately the way he has kept me on the edge of my seat, reading into the small hours and devouring the book so quickly I can hardly believe it is over. The tension, the heart stopping moments of action, the sheer thrill and the utter surprise. Big ticks on all of those. They are all here, just as I like them.
If you are aware at all of Matt Johnson’s own story then you will see how he has used this to good effect in the creation of these books. He is someone I have a great deal of respect for, not only for what he has been through, but also the way in which he has sought to overcome it. In finding an outlet for his own PTSD, he has given us a brilliant set of action thrillers, highly regarded and quite rightly so.
If you love a good action thriller, with thoroughly likeable characters, then I highly recommend you read this series from start to finish. I am very sad to see this end but I cannot wait to see what Matt Johnson brings us next as I am confident it will be a stonkingly brilliant thrill ride.
Good stuff Mr Johnson.
End Game is available now in ebook and from 31st March in paperback and can be purchased at the following retailers:
About the Author
Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty- five 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 and now End Game, the final book in the Robert Finaly series, once again draws on Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor.
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