A London family (one of the many Muslims from SE Asia) is assaulted. The family is threatened unless the husband delivers a backpack to a coffee shop at exactly 8am and dropped near the table where a woman and a man are meeting. The weight of the pack and the ruthlessness of the assault on this family convince the husband that he is carrying a bomb. He drops the pack as required and bolts.
The bomb kills and mains dozens of customers. Two detectives are nearby when the bomb goes off. Tina Boyd spots the guy running away and takes up the chase. But the guy gets wasted by a bus. There goes a lead. An unknown Muslim group takes credit and threatens a huge strike in 12 hours unless demands are met. Secondary bombs go off as police close in on clues. The death toll amongst the cops rises as the day progresses.
Tina has a rep in the Met police force, and it ain't good. Seems like every time something goes south, like a perp gets beaten badly, or there is gun play, Tina is in the middle - a loose cannon is she. Just another day on the job for Tina Boyd.
In maximum security wing of the toughest prison sits The Fox, the only guy captured after a terrorist takeover of a London hotel about a year earlier. There is a mound of evidence of his role in the hotel job and he'll never see freedom again. But he notices similarities in the coffee shop bombing and methods his employer used on the hotel takeover . . . and he wants to deal. Names for more favorable treatment, but he'll only talk to Tina, cuz she gets things done.
The Fox gives Tina a name, which she and her partner, Mike Bolt, start to run down. When the tip turns up golden, The Fox offers more in exchange for even more prison benefits. Bolt is hesitant to trust The Fox and is using a disgraced former cop to work undercover who might have hit on something big.
And the clock is ticking, quickly. A robbery of a drug dealer's collection muscle, the murder of a quasi-small time Albanian arms dealer, a South African assassin, the undercover cop's ex-wife, and attempts on The Fox's life in prison are all connected in a web as convoluted as a web spun by a drunken spider. And evening approaches. What in planned to happen when the 8pm deadline approaches is massive. Not only will the major strike horrify residents of the UK and kill many, the actual motivations of those behind this bloody day are not as they seem, not by a long shot.
This is the first book by Kernick I've read (again, thanks to the good folks at Simon and Schuster for the advance copy). If I read Kernick's web site correctly, this is the 6th Tina Boyd novel (out of his list of 18 published thrillers). I recently reviewed a couple of books by L.T. Ryan that started fast and kept up the pressure throughout, but I really wasn't all that enthralled with the characters or the plotting. Not so for Kernick. While this, too starts out at 100mph and stays that way, the characters, plotting, and twists don't leave the reader any time to question what could potentially tear the UK apart - just keep turning the pages and hold on. Took this to a beach week with 18 family members and even amongst the hubbub of such a gathering, I managed to read this in just a couple days. Without distractions, I could've gone cover to cover in one sitting. Kernick? Oh, yeah. I'll be back. Put money on it and take it to the bank.
Ultimatum will be available in the US on September 9, 2014.