Review: Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

Friday 18 March 2016
Title: Wicked Game
Author: Matt Johnson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 15th March 2015
Pages: 320
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon
2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. Finlay's deeply traumatic, carefully concealed past is about to return to haunt him. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay's own SAS regiment, and in a series of explosive events, it becomes clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues, friends and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse a wicked game in which Finlay is the target, forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy.

Wicked Game is a taut, action packed, emotive thriller about a man who might be your neighbor, a man who is forced to confront his past in order to face a threat that may wipe out his future, a man who is willing to do anything to protect the people he loves. But is it too late?

I am delighted to be taking part in my first Orenda Books blog tour today for the brilliant Wicked Game. Matt Johnson first came to my attention a couple of years ago when I read about this book on Amazon and was fascinated by Matt's background and what led to him eventually writing a novel. Despite having read hundreds of thrillers, it's rare to find one with this level of authenticity and with some real passion behind the writing, and that's what ultimately helped me to connect more with the characters, because of how real they felt and how believable their stories were. I would describe Wicked Game as a thriller with a heart, and the story behind it and Matt's own experiences are what makes it beat. It goes far beyond being just another run-of-the-mill thriller and I am very excited to read what Matt writes next.

It's 2001 and Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royal Protection team is about to return to uniform policing and hopefully a less stressful life. Fate intervenes, shattering Finlay's life as he knows it as his deeply traumatic and carefully concealed past comes back to haunt him. A policeman is killed in a roadside blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both former SAS colleagues of Finlay's, it becomes clear that he could be next, and he is soon forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy. So far, so thriller but really what this story felt like to me was one of those non-fiction books where an ex-soldier tells their story, it felt scarily real in places but at the same time it was still an entertaining read alongside that which is the main reason I like to read thrillers, for both the escapism and the adrenaline rush that will hopefully be provided.

The storyline is never overly gratuitous and, whilst I must apologise for being so ambiguous, the storyline touches on subjects which I have read about in the past from the opposite side, and so it was interesting to read a different point of view and that was what made the story more thought-provoking for me. It's a story that will have you thinking about its characters and plot developments long after finishing the book. Whilst as a thriller it does obviously contain all of those Hollywood blockbuster type scenes you want and expect from a thriller, there's still a real story to be had here and the twists and turns are delivered at exactly the right moment. Wicked Game has been somewhat of a success in the past but I believe it now being published by Orenda Books means it is about to be discovered by a whole new set of readers and I for one can't wait to see what Matt writes next. The thriller genre is a busy genre but there's not many authors who can write a story with the emotional impact and the authenticity with which Matt has written Wicked Game, it just oozes off every single page and it's mark will be left long after that final page has been turned.

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