Published by Century,
4 August 2023.
ISBN: 978 (PBO)
One of the most breathtaking thrillers I’ve ever had the pleasure of finishing in a day, The Chase is pure escapism.
Emma Makepeace is a spy. She works for the Agency, an MI5 or MI6 offshoot, and she’s not been doing it very long. Assassins are at their deadly work in London and Russian scientists seem to be their target. Ripley, the Agency’s charismatic boss, believes their ultimate target is Michael Primalov, the son of one-time defector Elena. He’s already refused help once. Emma is charged with persuading him to accept it before he is killed.
This proves difficult as Michael is a paediatric oncologist and devoted to his work. He doesn’t want to leave it and doesn’t accept that he’s in danger, and his mother through him. Then things begin to happen, over just a few pages, and he allows Emma to try to bring him in, in spy parlance. And that’s when things really start to go wrong, resulting in the eponymous chase over just one night through London. It’s breathtaking and very exciting and, in thriller parlance, I couldn’t put it down.
The story is told in a direct and engaging style that adds to the pace and lightens the novel with humour. The story is also broadened by the insight we get into Emma’s motivations and skills through a series of flashbacks, revealing her family’s own past as a victim of Russian malevolence and some exciting events in her days of training that have a bearing on her resourcefulness as she helps Michael evade very determined Russian assassins. There’s an extra layer to the story too that I can’t reveal but it supercharges the story. ‘Against the odds’ hardly does it credit.
The novel, shortlisted in 2023 for
the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, also raises questions about the morality of
spies, the difficulties of giving protected people a whole new life, and about
the real differences between goodies and baddies. Questions I’d have liked to see
explored in more depth, but this wasn’t the book for that. It was unremittingly
black and white, and as such fulfilled its purpose admirably: to make your
heart race as the likeable protagonists we’re rooting for struggle in ever more
death-defying ways not to get caught and killed by evil villains. Great fun and
a super beach read.
Reviewer: Dea Parkin
Dea Parkin is an editor with her consultancy Fiction Feedback and is also Coordinator of the Crime Writers’ Association. She writes poetry and occasionally re-engages with The Novel. When she isn't engaged in literary pursuits, she is usually to be found on the tennis court – or following the international tour on TV. Usually with several books on the go, she entertains a penchant for crime fiction, history, and novels with a mystical edge. She is engaged in a continual struggle to find more space for bookshelves and more time to have fun with her friends.