• Marked for Death
  • Tony Kent
  • Elliott & Thompson Ltd, Paperback edition (July 2019)
  • ISBN 978-1783964499

I must confess to a weakness for a ‘grab-you-by-the-throat-won’t-let-go-only-one-of-us-is-getting-out-of-here-alive’ kind of thriller. Of its genre this is one of the very best. The natural child of Michael Connolly and John Grisham with a dark sprinkling of Ian Rankin.

The murder of a former Lord Chief Justice leads Michael Devlin QC and his partner Sarah Truman into the helter-skelter pursuit of the killer. Whilst Devlin is holding down his day job in some brilliantly realised courtroom scenes at the Old Bailey (I may well be stealing the cell-site cross-examination) Sarah Truman pursues hers as an investigative journalist who is onto the killer.

What follows is the drawing together of apparently disparate threads to create a very satisfying whole. The plot sprints along and caused the first genuine 3am ‘got to find out how this is going to end’ moment in many years.

The murder of a solicitor and then horrific events closer to home begin to reveal the identity of a killer who is, at every turn, many steps ahead of his pursuers. A genuinely clever psychopath has never been more realistically or chillingly realised.

The plot avoids narrative clichés and the twist is both brilliantly delivered and utterly unforeseen.

In this, his second book, Tony Kent has created a memorable villain worthy of Thomas Harris and yet grounded in a world completely familiar to those of us who work in the criminal justice system. His protagonists, in particular Devlin (with his flaws) and his erstwhile pupil supervisor, are definitely people I used to drink with in the Devereux.

This realism is no surprise. Tony Kent is a barrister of some 17 years who will be well known to practitioners in London and South Eastern Circuiteers, although not by the nom de plume. His first book, Killer Intent, was a bestseller and selected for the Zoe Ball Book Club. Marked for Death is darker and may well leave the readership of the Richard and Judy Book Club (for which it has been selected) a tad traumatised but it is an excellent addition to my favourite genre.

Reviewer: Craig Rush is a barrister at 2 Bedford Row.