Could be and should be the next big thing.
I have just finished Graeme Shimmin’s A Kill in the Morning, and I loved it. It beautifully blends several genres with astonishing ease, notably the alternative history as that exemplified in Fatherland (that where an alternative history leads to the story, rather than the alternative history being the story), and the gripping thriller/action plot as in James Bond films. This blending makes for a fantastic read, even though personally I may disagree with the comparisons with the other media above (more on that later). The story twisted and turned, yet maintained a strong pace throughout and was a real page turner.
The story follows a nameless assassin who works for ‘the Service’ (a union of British secret services MI6 with Special Operations Executive). There is an uneasy peace in Europe as British tensions with Germany after Churchill died in 1941 come to a confrontational head from both nations in 1955. The German superpower dominates the continent, yet there are several ‘off the record’ raids which require ‘plausible deniability’ from both nations; not least to demonstrate nuclear capabilities. After the head of ‘the Service’ is murdered by German agents, the assassin goes rogue in an attempt to garner revenge on the people responsible. As he is chased by both the British and the German secret services, his private vendetta becomes increasingly difficult and madcap.
Before you read this novel, a caution: you will not put it down once it gets going. I read the opening eight or nine chapters in a few sittings, and they were good, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t that electrifying read that I crave in a book. They were interesting and exciting, but they didn’t have that star quality which results in a brilliant read. That all changed when I picked it up for a second time after a bit of a break from it, as the realistic bent of the book slipped away, so did my difficulty in finding something gripping. Shimmin definitely didn’t create a realistic storyline, its plausibility is highly deniable. And yet. A Kill in the Morning just goes to show that it doesn’t require a read that is realistic, or a read that is possible in any way to grab the reader by the lapels, Once the action starts, Shimmin comes into his own, the wacky and brilliantly imaginative plot is complemented by all the drama which goes on alongside it.
Several reviewers have compared A Kill in the Morning to both Fatherland, and James Bond-style action. I would disagree with those comparisons. Shimmin has created a more cynical, a darker, with flashes of that black humour which readers so love. The way that genuine events from the war are carefully woven into the story is brilliant, and combines very well with Shimmin’s attention to contextual detail, which was all (so far as I know) spot on.
Despite some mild clichés, I enjoyed every minute of the book, which, being honest, surprised me. I made the mistake of judging the book before I read it based on popularity and the cover, which I felt was a little too busy, but realistically speaking, this could be and should be the next big thing. That’s how much I enjoyed it, how brilliant it was. It’s on a par with my favourite novels, and I urge you to read this stunningly good debut.
I don’t like killing, but I’m good at it.
Narrative-gritty characters who one would definitely not want to meet in a dark alley, but Shimmin manages to make murderers likable-★★★★★
Readability-brilliant, right from the explosive (boom boom) right through to the fun ending, this is one of those books that you will not put down-★★★★★
Overall-quite frankly, Shimmin has created a masterpiece. I look forward to reading more from Shimmin after a debut like this-★★★★★ (100)