That’s the premise of Alan McDermott’s Gray Justice, a novel that reads like a season of 24.
His action sequences are great. They’re fast, gripping and lucid. I can tell exactly what’s going on, I can picture where every character is and where they’re moving. The plot is strong, with no excess details and no dangling subplots. McDermott, like his main character, knows how to focus.
The characters have clear motivations. We readers know exactly why every person in this story does what he or she does.
Overall, I liked this novel, independently published as an e-book by the author. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book go to two British charities: the British Heart Foundation, and Barnardo’s the leading children’s charity in the UK.
The book is not perfect. While the main character is nominally Tom Gray, it seems to me that more pages are devoted to Andrew Harvey, the special security agent tasked with stopping him. There are sections that are information dumps, especially when the author introduces new characters and tells their back-stories. It could have used a friendly, but firm edit early on.
Some of the dialog is a little forced, but most is believable. I can hear people speaking that way.
Another problem is that Tom Gray is just a little to capable, cool and calculated for me. I have trouble believing that anyone could plan a caper down to this level of detail, calculating every move his opponents will make (with one major exception that drives the second half of the book). But that’s the only credibility stretch in the book, so we can forgive the author. My book, after all, breaks credulity from the get-go.
A point here about the political dimension of the book. The main character proposes changes to the UK’s criminal justice system with much stricter sentences and prisons and even the reinstatement of corporal punishment. I could point out the practical futility of many of the proposals. On the other hand, [SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE END OF THE STORY, SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH], the story itself does show how some of the ideas backfire. Personally, I think that the reasons for crime are deeper than the punishments for them.
The point is that McDermott tells a compelling story. I read this book in record time because I wanted to find out what would happen next. And that’s the mark of a successful novelist: he makes you want to read more.