The Witness (DI Ray Mason #1), by Simon Kernick

Eight stars

Having read some of Simon Kernick’s recent work involving DI Ray Mason, I wanted to go back to where the first feature-length novel started. After a violent home invasion leaves Anil Rahman and his wife dead, only one witness survives. Having cowered under the bed during the attack, Jane Kinnear has a fragmented story to tell the police. Kinnear recounts how Anil was asked about a terrorist attack that was in the works and vaguely recollects that the killer was white. Other than that, nothing else of significance has occurred to Kinnear while she convalesces. With the killer still on the loose, Kinnear is transported to a safe house for the time being, kept under constant watch. Acting on the information that Kinnear remembers, and with a potential terror cell plotting an attack, DI Ray Mason is called in to help with the larger investigation. This includes trying to find leads on Anil Rahman’s murder, an informant for MI5. An experienced Counter-Terrorism agent, Mason has his eye on a specific cell that’s been chattering within the United Kingdom. However, as he and his partner approach them for answers, no one seems to have anything useful. However, Mason has come to realise that sometimes you need to push a little harder, only to discover a plot that could have brought the country to its knees. Mason remains baffled as to how Anil Rahman might have known anything beforehand, based on the narrative Kinnear has offered police while situated in her safe house. Throughout the narrative, Jane Kinnear reveals more about a sordid past in South Africa and the United States, which thickens the plot, as she has come face to face with some unsavoury characters. When the killers reach out to Mason and demand to know where the safe house is located, the case takes on a new level of concern, with Kinnear a potential new target. Rushing to piece it all together, Mason must fight against the clock and the fact that he has blood all over his hands in his latest pursuit for justice. A wonderful piece by Simon Kernick, who shows that he is able to entertain and keep the reader flipping pages well into the night. Recommended for those who love a good police procedural with a few poignant twists.

As I mentioned before, I discovered Kernick quite by accident and was drawn into his Ray Mason character from the start. When I realised that there was an earlier novel, before the Bone Fields, I knew I would have to find it so that I might better understand Mason and what made him tick. Mason’s character is not only thoroughly captivating, but the backstory on offer is rich with foreboding throughout the present narrative. A family life that would have left most anyone jaded, Mason fought off all those issues to become a stellar member of the police, fighting terrorism at home and abroad. Some of the other characters prove rich additions to the story, particularly as Kernick offers three perspectives in alternating chapters throughout the piece. It all enriches the experience a great deal and keeps the reader juggling information. The story itself was top-notch, with twists and information delivered to the reader at key moments. While it was apparent that something was amiss, until all the pieces fell into place, the reader was likely left guessing. With this Ray Mason foundation, I do hope to read more by Kernick, especially since it has come highly recommended.

Kudos, Mr. Kernick, for another wonderful story. I hope others come upon your novels and find a place for them on their ‘TBR’ shelves.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: