Review: British author Mick Herron's sterling fourth novel, Reconstruction, is a chilling recounting of every detail of every parent's worst nightmare – the seizure of a nursery school by an apparently crazed, gun-wielding terrorist. The story's an often frightening look at the lives of the protagonists, from the teen-aged gunman, to the courageous teacher, to the father with the twin tots struggling to make sense of it all, to the misanthropic cleaning lady, to the MI6 accountant turned field agent, negotiating with the kidnapper and fending off a troubled, itchy-fingered sniper, an apparently ruthless colleague and several nervous cops caught in jurisdictional scrambles. As much a rear-view-mirror analysis of the psyches of the players as a recollected presentation of the facts of the case, the novel turns into a galloping action-packed, psyche-probing read with a surprisingly mind-blowing ending about who is guilty and of what.
In Herron's complex story everyone is a reconstructionist, either of their own baggage or of other people's lives or of the events around them. Herron, of course, is the master of the reconstruction, retelling the specifics of the day long siege, getting inside the skins and brains of his characters, and having them compare and contrast their recollections of the current "flap" or of past "incidents" so as to tighten the tension or muddy the memories of the mysteries. There's the mystery, for example, of who the teenaged gunman, Jaime Segura, is, why he was running from his two cop-like pursuers, how he "slipped their digital leash," and why he ran to the South Oxford Nursery School in search of "the Lady." And who is "the Lady," and why did he think she could help him? Then there's the mystery of why Eliot Pedlar with his "Memory" and his twin boys, Gordon and Timmy are at the school early when only its second-in-command, Louise Kennedy, is there regretfully musing over "the incident?" And why is the school's cleaning lady, Judy Ainsworth, "in her daily mist of complaint," and rummaging through Louise's office desk when Jaime traps them all in the nursery's windowless Annexe? Then, there's Jaime's plea to the assembled police for help from a secret services department accountant, Ben Whistler – why an accountant instead of a police officer? And what is Louise's reason for returning so quickly to the Annexe after warning incoming parents and children away from the danger? Just as importantly, there's the mystery of Whistler's gay accountant colleague, Miro Weiss, and his disappearance, allegedly with a "missing quarter of a billion pounds" from the Iraqi Reconstruction funds overseas.
Mysteries and secrets surround other characters as well, and their lives are also intriguingly reconstructed. A sniper's recollected earlier experiences, for instance, add to the uncertainty of the possible outcomes for the current "flap." So do the past circumstances of the British secret service spook and "Head Dog" known as Bad Sam Chapman whose partner died trying to apprehend Jaime in a "collect-and-comfort" operation gone terribly wrong. Bad Sam has been doggedly pursuing the teenager ever since, interviewing all kinds of people, trying to reconstruct Jamie's hidden connections to his lover Miro, to Whistler, even to Louise. And as some people cross paths and others cross swords, there's a heart-pounding fluctuation between hope and despair for the safety of the hostages and the capture of their kidnapper. But that's a final resolution to the long day's reconstruction best left to be read in Mick Herron's spellbinding novel.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Reconstruction.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of Reconstruction for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Smoke and Whispers
Soho Constable (Hardcover), April 2009
ISBN-13: 9781569475645; ISBN-10: 1569475644
Location(s) referenced in Reconstruction: Oxford, England
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Reconstruction by Mick Herron
Publisher: Soho Constable
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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