Friday, April 21, 2017


THE BONE FIELD by Simon Kernick (Century, 2017)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

When the bones of a 21-year old woman who went missing without trace in Thailand in 1990, are discovered in the grounds of an old Catholic school in Buckinghamshire, an enduring mystery takes on a whole new twist. Her boyfriend at the time, and the man who reported her missing, Henry Forbes, now a middle-aged university lecturer, comes forward with his lawyer and tells DI Ray Mason that he knows what happened to Kitty, and who killed her.

So begins a hunt for the truth that will focus on a ruthless crime gang, a rich, dysfunctional family with a terrible past, and a highly ambitious man so cruel and ruthless that he must be brought down at any cost...

If you need a shot of adrenaline in your reading life, then grab a Simon Kernick novel. The British thriller writer is a master when it comes to helter-skelter plotlines that quicken the pulse as the pages whir. Someone really needs to turn some of his novels into movies or TV - they seem ideal for screen adaptation: exciting plots, interesting characters, plenty of action.

THE BONE FIELD brings two of Kernick's intriguing past characters together in one book. DI Ray Mason, from THE WITNESS, has moved from counter-terrorism to homicide but is still a somewhat-rogue, do-whatever-it-takes cop. Tina Boyd, who featured in many of Kernick's thrillers, is no longer with the police force, but working as a private eye. Over the course of Kernick's oeuvre, Boyd grew from  minor role to major star - like Mason she was a maverick cop with bucketloads of issues, so the pairing of the duo is like a lit fuse burning down towards a stack of dynamite.

Kernick's 'good guys' are often more anti-hero than hero, but he leaves no doubt with his villains. They're beyond bad, and THE BONE FIELD features some real nasties. It's kicked off when Mason is contacted by middle-aged Henry Forbes, whose girlfriend went missing in Thailand a quarter century ago. So how come her body now gets found in England? Before Forbes can confess to Mason what he knows, or what he did, their meeting is violently interrupted by professional killers.

From there, we're off to the races. Mason knows something bigger is going on, and is determined to find out, regardless of the danger. He needs to colour outside official lines, and that's where Boyd and her skills come in. Simple plans shatter. Each quickly finds themselves neck-deep in danger.

There's a particular sinister killer in this one, and the secrets that get uncovered are pretty dark. Kernick thatches an intriguing plot, keeps the narrative pedal to the metal, and had me engaged with the dynamic between Mason and Boyd. It's not flawless, but there's a heck of a lot to like.

There are many different kinds of thriller writers, so how you feel about Simon Kernick may depend on where your preferences fall. He's very good at what he does, one of the best. If you're keen on action-packed reads that'll have you laminated to your seat, that delve into the darker parts of the criminal underworld, and where you're riding a rollercoaster with damaged heroes, give this a try.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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