REVIEW: DEADLY GAME by Matt Johnson (Robert Finlay #2)

Series: Robert Finlay

Book Number: 2

Read this book for: thriller, military and spy thriller, terrorist plots, bombing plots, detectives in trouble, now-it’s-personal story, trust no one

Quick Review: A twisting and multi-layered thriller that will keep surprising you throughout; definitely a great second novel in this series!

***

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all…

DEADLY GAME is the second novel by Matt Johnson featuring Robert Finlay, an ex-SAS soldier turned London Met officer. This novel, and the first – WICKED GAME – benefit greatly from Johnson’s personal experience both with the military and the Met, which means he writes with insight and information that most thriller authors don’t have access to, and which adds a true sense of realism to his thrillers.

DEADLY GAME picks up almost exactly where WICKED GAME leaves off. While Johnson does a good job of recapping most of the major points that you need to know in order to be able to understand this second novel, because they are very much two parts of the same story, I would highly recommend reading WICKED GAME first. The writing in this sequel is very much in the same vein as the first – engaging and easy to relate to – but with fewer flashbacks. Instead, Johnson introduces a new point of view through MI5 Met Liaison Toni Fellowes – a clever agent with an interesting collection of personal motivations for her decisions.

Toni’s introduction helps to fully bring the Security Services (MI5 & MI6) into the narrative. This leads to a three-faction game of questions and second guessing, working with and against each other (the military, the Met, and MI5&6), plus the added side of a human trafficking ring. This is where this story really shines, as you are kept guessing by the shifting loyalties, on an institutional and personal level. It makes for a complex plot that keeps you turning pages trying to guess who everyone is really working for. What makes it even more interesting is that some of the characters don’t even know who they are really working for!

This winding plot is complimented by Johnson’s very skillful style. The ‘main plots’ are relatively slow burners, but with the combination of backstory, revelations, faction shifts, set up, and pure thriller action, there is never a dull moment. This is a truly enjoyable military/espionage thriller.

If you consider yourself a thriller fan at all, I have to recommend this series, and DEADLY GAME absolutely does not disappoint. Pick up a copy and be prepared not to put it down until you’ve finished!

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