The Siege by John Sutherland

It’s another one of those rare days where I am playing catch up with Mandie. Mandie read The Siege by John Sutherland last year for the blog tour to celebrate the release of the hardback, and it’s been sitting on my TBR, haunting me, ever since. You can read Mandie’s review here, but as it was her favourite read of 2022, it’s fair to say it’s a good one. Having now caught up, I can understand why. the book is now out in paperback too so there’s no excuse not to catch up for yourselves. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 23 June 2022
Publisher: Orion

About the Book

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?

My Thoughts

What a read. Talk about your ticking clock thriller. Could not be more apt a description for this fast paced, attention grabbing hostage thriller which takes place over the course of one night. Focused largely on three main protagonists – hostage taker, Lee, one of the hostages, single mother, Grace, and the hostage negotiator, Alex, the story is packed with tension, authenticity, and pulse-thumping scenes which kept me completely hooked. I devoured this book in a single sitting. John Sutherland has really captured the pressure of the situation, that sense that if you turn away for even a moment, something bad could, and will happen, and it certainly worked to keep me riveted.

I have read the author’s two non-fiction titles, one a memoir, the other a look into the challenges and issues facing modern policing. Both showed how much John Sutherland cared for his former role, for his colleagues and for the community that he served, but also that his focus was as much on understanding the reasons for crime and how and why people end up breaking the law, every bit as much ensuring that criminals are caught and that justice is seen to be done. In his memoir, Blue, we also see how much the day to day toll of policing had on his own mental health, the impacts of seeing so much violence leaving an indelible mark. All of this is reflected perfectly in The Siege and in the characters that he has brought to life. this, and his own experience as a hostage negotiator, is what gives the book so much authenticity, what makes it so compelling.

There is no simple condemnation of the aggressor, Lee, nor hero like status of Alex as the negotiator. Both are far more nuanced characters, multi-faceted in a way that gets under your skin. While we are first introduced to Lee James Connor in a way that leaves no doubt as to his malicious intent, the longer we spend with him, the more sympathy it is possible to feel for his position. His is not a simple case of terrorism disguised as misguided patriotism, his anger towards ethnic minorities and immigrants driven by far more than simple hate that has been exacerbated by online facism and extreme right wing sites on the dark web. Whilst it is not possible to completely forgive his actions, the clear message we are presented with is that understanding the root cause is the key to changing his attitude, and perhaps his actions.

Superintendent Alex Lewis, as lead hostage negotiator, has a very complicated life. Haunted by the outcome of his last negotiation, and with a family life that is far from welcoming or especially loving, you can feel the tension and apprehension that sits within him as he faces one of the biggest and most intense negotiations of his career. In spite of his inner self doubt, he is calm, and, backed up by the team of negotiators, determined to see a positive outcome for all involved. On the other side of the police line, caught in the increasingly intense and unpredictable hostage situation, Grace is a bit of a revelation. She is strong, calm, and her thoughts, whilst with the other hostages, also include concern for Lee too. Although this could just be an attempt to leave the situation with everyone safe, there is a real sense of Grace caring about what the cause of Lee’s aggression is, a desire to understand him as more than a terrorist but as a damaged and hurt man. Her motherly instincts come to the fore in a way which feels believable and heartening in the midst of such tension. I warmed to both Alex and Grace very quickly, making me more determined to read on in the hope of a positive outcome.

This book is paced perfectly, the action switching between the characters seamlessly, ensuring that the action is kept taught and the sense of urgency never dips. There are moments of great threat, the kind that have you leaning forward in your seat, and Lee’s unpredictability, exaggerated and enhanced by his use of drugs, adds a layer of fear to everything that we witness. Chapters are punctuated by a time stamp which gives you the sense of a realtime countdown, the way in which the clock ticks onwards, adding exhaustion to anger and frustration and making quite the heady mix. Learning more about each of the characters as we move through the book kept me completely on my toes, challenging any preconceptions I may have had, just as I am certain the author intended. I am certainly glad there is a second book just around the corner as this one really his the spot and was everything I wanted in a thriller.

Pacy, thought provoking, tense and sometimes emotional, this book is most definitely recommended for crime fiction fans. An absolute winner.

About the Author

JOHN SUTHERLAND is a father of three who lives with his wife and children in south London. For more than twenty-five years he served as an officer in the Metropolitan Police, rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent before his retirement on medical grounds in 2018. John is a sought after public speaker and commentator on a broad range of issues, who regularly appears on TV and radio and writes for major newspapers. His first book, BLUE, written and published while he was still serving in the Met, was a Sunday Times bestseller. It tells the remarkable stories of his policing life and describes his long road to recovery following the serious nervous breakdown that ended his operational policing career.

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