Gerald Seymour, considered by many to be an expert on terrorism, has been writing timely thrillers since the 1975 publication of Harry’s Game, his acclaimed novel about an IRA assassin. Over the years, he followed that success with thrillers on topics like Arab terrorists, terrorism in Italy and South Africa, Cold War confrontations, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, war criminals in Yugoslavia, snipers in Iraq, and the Sicilian mafia. His novels, always well-written and thought provoking, are as topical as the latest headlines.
Seymour’s twenty-third novel, Rat Run, is no exception. It is a sometimes complicated story that incorporates the current fear in Western nations that Islamist fanatics have placed sleepers within their borders who are just waiting for word from their handlers that it is time to attack the institutions and citizens of those countries.
But a Gerald Seymour novel is never that simple. Seymour’s introduction of Malachy Kitchen, a down-and-out homeless man, is quickly followed by seemingly unrelated snapshots of what is going on in the lives of several other characters. The reader is offered glimpses into the London drug world at both the street level and at the top where real money is made, into the lives of those who suffer at the hands of petty criminals willing to do anything to finance their next fix and into the counter-terrorism efforts of the British Secret Service. The beauty of a Gerald Seymour novel is the way that he gradually weaves the paths of his many characters closer and closer together until they come together for his story’s climax.
Malachy Kitchen is an ex-military intelligence officer who managed to disgrace himself during his assignment in Iraq - disgraced himself so badly, in fact, that he was branded a coward and sent home. Although still stunned by what happened to him in Iraq, Kitchen is well aware that his career is over. What he did not expect is that his wife, daughter of a military officer herself, would decide that she could not live with a man she considered to be so contemptible. Emotionally unfit for anything but life in the streets, Kitchen lived a desperate existence until a kind welfare worker found public housing for him in one of London’s worst slums.
When his elderly neighbor, the only friend that Kitchen still has, is mugged by drug addicts for the pittance in her purse and is almost killed, the woman’s detective nephew offers Kitchen an opportunity to regain some of his self-esteem. All he has to do is find a way to intimidate and disgrace the drug dealers in the area to the point that they are unable to show their faces there ever again. With so little to lose, Kitchen finds this to be surprisingly easy and wants nothing more than to move up the illegal drug business ladder, attacking ever more important targets.
What he could not know is that one of his targets is also in the business of smuggling people into Western Europe and actively involved in getting an important terrorist controller into the U.K. Will Kitchen’s activities allow a known terrorist to slip through the British intelligence net, or can he be used by intelligence to help capture the man? Will the rat be captured, or should he be allowed to run until he leads authorities to the sleepers with whom he is aiming to make contact? Only Gerald Seymour knows for sure, but you can find all the answers for yourself in Rat Run.