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Friday 3 June 2022

‘Target Zero’ by Anthony Riches

Published by Head of Zeus,
14 April 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80110997-0 (HB)

Thanks to Mickey Bale’s unacceptably close encounter with the gangster who killed his young sister, Mickey, ex the Met’s close protection squad, is now footloose and fancy free.  But he is far from being forgotten: a powerful Russian oligarch, Salagin, wants a personal protection officer; a prominent gangster wants to blackmail Mickey into working for him; and James Cavendish, ex-army special services and MI5 officer, knows too much about Mickey’s past for comfort.  There is no chance that forty-something Mickey, whose wife Roz has finally left him, is going to enjoy a peaceful retirement.

In Russia, military intelligence, the GRU, are intent on delivering terror and mayhem into the British Isles. To this end they have established a Spetsnaz team in England. The team works independently of normal intelligence channels and is completely deniable if anything goes wrong. It is made up of men who have been carefully chosen not to arouse interest in any way. They are not top of any military lists and their faces are not on any wanted or frequent flyer lists. They know they are likely to die on their mission, are willing to do so, and have no near family who will raise the alarm if they are never seen again. They learn what their targets are, and where to find the horrendous weaponry – thermobaric missiles - they will use to create destruction and mayhem shortly before they engage with each of their four targets.

MI5 are alerted to the existence of the Spetsnaz team after policemen are killed in an explosion after stopping the team on a motorway. The terrorists escape, but the race is on to find the Russian’s next targets before hundreds of civilians are killed. James Cavendish, who generally speaking seems to be an honourable chap, puts country before friendship and uses his knowledge of Mickey’s colourful past to twist Mikey’s arm to apply for the job of protecting the rich Russian oligarch, Salagin. The GRU allow Saligin to live the life of O’Reilly in London in return for performing small favours. Salagin engages Mickey even though his right-hand-man is not happy about the appointment. At Salagin’s house, Mickey meets Angela, Salagin’s PA. They are attracted to each other and share a little more than information.

Despite intensive surveillance by the security services, more attacks occur.  Then we get to the site of the final atrocity where the Russians hope to kill and maim hundreds of innocent tourists. Miscommunications between Mickey and the security services add to the tension as the clock counts down and Mickey battles to prevent a bloodbath.

This second book in Anthony Riches’ Protection series more than keeps up the pace set for the likeable hero, Mickey Bale, in Nemesis. It is another enjoyable, if nerve-racking read.  I fear that, whether he likes it or not, Mickey is going to have a hard time getting MI5 and James Cavendish off his back.  I’d be surprised if we don’t see him pressed back into action in the near future.

Reviewer Angela Crowther

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father's stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children. 

Angela Crowther  is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.


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