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'The Murder Exchange' is the third Simon Kernick novel I have read. The first two were action packed from the opening page and I expected little else from this novel and to be fair it did start off in that fashion.
As usual, Kernick hooks you in with an interesting plot which is slowly released. This time we are introduced to Max Iversson, a former mercenary who now makes his money through his partnership of a security company, Tiger Solutions. On the first job we go to with Iversson it goes massively wrong. What was supposed to be a simple business deal ends in a bloodbath with Iversson lucky to escape. He then has to piece together what has just happened, who he can trust and what was really occurring at the meeting.
Kernick is an excellent story teller. However, as enthralling as his books are they don't really stay with you too much after you have read them. I could vaguely give you an outline of the previous two books but I can't even remember how they ended. That's part of the problem with this one too. You need to be able to read it in a relatively short piece of time so that you can keep track of all the story threads.
The interesting aspect of this story is that it is told in the first person, from Iversson's point of view. However, this switches to the first person of Detective Sergeant John Gallan. Their paths cross reasonably often through the story and lead to the inevitable conclusion which is described in the introduction. This was also a good way to start the story. Kernick reveals that one of the two men will be staring down the barrel by the end of the novel. That thought stayed with me through the whole story and you I find I was constantly re-evaluating which of the two would be on the wrong end of the gun and who would be holding it.
Where the start was excellent I found this to be a little saggy in the middle before finishing in style. To be fair it would be difficult to maintain the pace that is set at either end but I did find I had to force myself to plod on through the middle. Something that definitely did not happen in the other books. This was his second book and I guess it is encouraging that his writing does seem to be getter better through time.
I always think a sign of an enjoyable story is when you are disappointed when the story switches from the one man to the other and this happened most times here. Gallan has his own story threads and they hang contribute to the overall story. There is a lot more latitude in his story, rather than Iversson's which tends to focus only on getting to the bottom of who is behind his betrayal.
Writing as two separate individual characters is obviously difficult. It would be easy to fall into stereotype, especially when writing as a gangster and a policeman. I found that Kernick managed to avoid this in the main although Iversson does fall into the reluctant antihero category more than is ideal.
Whilst I have not read a lot of Kernick's work I did recognise some minor reoccurring characters which added to the story. I think it would help if you had read the other material as you would be able to relate to these characters more. Also Kernick references some of the other stories through character conversations or anecdotes.
The main downside to this book is that I found it fairly predictable. The story heads down almost the only path that it could and the 'twist' was very predictable, in fact I assumed that it was written in a way that a genuine twist would occur. Sadly this was not the case. However, I still found that it was a fairly enjoyable read.
I better add that if you find swearing offensive or fairly descriptive narrative of torture then this is not the book for you.
I would recommend this if you have enjoyed Kernick's other work but I would say it's the poorest of the three I have read (Severed and Deadline being the other two).
I started reading Kernicks books by picking up Relentless at Tesco for about £3.50. Since that book I have ben hooked by Kernick and his grusome and detailed narrative.
The book is based upon two main charaters, Max Iversson, an exsoldier who runs his own business as a security / bodyguard service and DS John Gallen, a policeman working in the same station as Dennis Milne, a policeman gone bad from other Kernick books.
The story is told from both charaters views with the heading for each chapter telling you who you are reading about, which was a great help at times but not strictly neccessary.
Iversson is asked by a contact to provide backup and support for a dodgy club owner, Roy Fowler. He then sets up a small team which will support a deal that Fowler has to do. Suddenly the deal goes bad very quickly and Iversson ends up on the run. Finding himself deep in a world that he wishes he was never part of Iversson, a man who seeks revenge and justice, takes on London's biggest crime gang.
At the same time Gallen is trying to solve a variety of problems starting with the death of a local doorman. The leads he gets from this take him further and further toward the very same crime gang that Iversson is involved in. Each death seems to link to others in the gang until Iversson and Gallen become very much involved in the same thing.
There are some great narrative sections and Kernick's attention to detail (similar to the style of the child author, Anthony Horowitz). Kernick loves to research every last detail to ensure that what he writes is either accurate or as close as possible within the realms of fiction. He draws upon many contacts in the police and other professions to do this.
I love his style and his attention to detail. If you want a large jigsaw style book where all the pieces suddenly join up and make sense then give this a go. Although other books by Kernick are slightly better. you won't be disappointed.