By Nick Lake
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 14044882812
It's not every book that manages to shock and grip you from almost the first sentence, but when the narrator has a gun pointed at her head on Page 1, there's almost a guarantee that the adrenaline-soaked pages that follow will keep you on the edge of your seat.
As Nick Lake's Hostage Three opens, Amy - who serves as the story's narrator - is being held hostage by Somali pirates on her father's luxury yacht. It's a textbook techniue to open the action in the middle of a crisis, and Lake does it to great effect. But there is always a risk that such a gripping opening could be the climax and things will only go downhill from there.
Fortunately Lake is a clever writer, and his solution is to take the reader into unexpected territory, delivering something very different from what they might expect after the gun-at-the-head opener. Once he has our attention, Lake delivers almost unbearable tension and thrills with his thought-provoking plotting and emotionally charged writing.
Amy's backstory is presented simply and neatly: her mother has recently died, her millionaire banker father has remarried, and Amy has rebelled against changes in her life that she did not want. Her father's answer to his daughter's unhappiness is to buy a luxury yacht and take his new wife and daughter on a round the world cruise.
But what starts as an attempt to heal a family becomes a hostage situation when Somali pirates hijack the vessel. Events become even more tense when Amy and Farouz, the pirates' young interpreter, realise they're falling for one another. Despite the difficult setting, Amy wants to discover what she can about Farouz and his background, and as the two become closer, an already dangerous situation becomes more explosive as lines are crossed and the price of a life becomes blurred and confused. It would only take one false move to ignite the situation and destroy all involved.
This powerful story is focused on Amy's life-or-death predicament, but it also questions many contemporary issues - the banking crisis, poverty and conflict in the developing world. Lake takes no sides in his novel, and at times the distinctions between villains and good guys are nearly impossible to discern.
Amy's story is controversial and compulsive, and it will grip readers who like to be challenged and thrilled by a contemporary novel that doesn't fit into any preconceived mould.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com