This contemporary crime story takes place over three weeks in November and unfolds against the multi-cultural backdrop of Soho, London. Branen had to leave the UK six years before to escape his complex clandestine history and the consequences of a crime that achieved worldwide notoriety. When his daughter is brutally murdered in Soho he believes that he could be the reason. He returns to his old hunting grounds to find the killer. His search brings him into conflict with the British Secret Service and Soho's underworld. He is forced to flee Soho again after a tragic meeting with his ex-wife. His past has caught up with him and the hunter becomes the hunted. Now forty years old Branen wants to stop running and to remove forever the continuing threat to his life. In an effort to get rid of his pursuers he is faced with the prospect that his only chance of survival could lead to his death.
After accepting to read and review an advanced copy of this book, I felt a bit concerned, as I don't usually go for thrillers involving the secret service, secret agents and the likes. In fact I tend to avoid them and I have to say that I found this thriller's style very different from that of others I've read.
In my opinion, this book has one of the most powerful covers I've ever seen. The bee on the girl's lip just makes me shudder every time I look at it.
Starting the book, I felt overwhelmed by a long list of characters that is displayed at the beginning to help readers remember who's who. Actually I don't think it was very wise for the author to put that list there as while it may be helpful to some readers, others may find it intimidating (as I did). However although in the book we meet MANY characters, I found that I didn't need to refer to this list at all.
"Your daughter is dead."
Branen (an ex secret service agent) is a man on a mission. He's just received devastating news - his daughter has been murdered. Now after years in hiding and escaping from his previous life, he's forced back to Soho (where he used to live in his youth) to find his daughter's murderer and avenge her death.
In his absence, his daughter has also been employed by the secret service, and before her death she was trying to infiltrate a drugs ring. With the aid of 'The Controller', Branen has to retrace his daughter's last days to understand what happened and who may be behind her murder. Who killed his daughter? Will he ever find out? Was she killed because of him? Or was this just a trap to lure him out of his hiding and finish him off for good?
Soho Honey is a very tense, well-written book. Though there were some parts that I found a bit dragging, over-elaborate or sometimes confusing due to a lot of going up and down the streets of Soho, for the majority it kept me on the tip of my toes with several heart-pounding, fast-paced moments and a feeling of helplessness and apprehension that something bad is waiting to happen around the corner. I found myself in a world where you can trust no-one and you have to constantly look behind your shoulders. You never know who's watching your every move.
Branen is a great, likeable character, but apart from him and a couple of his friends, all the others are despicable, unsavoury characters you don't want to meet in real life. Through his words, the author brings the seedy underbelly of Soho to life, with its contrasting cultures, the many bars, clubs, dark alleyways and its thriving drug industry and prostitution. You can almost feel the atmosphere in Soho charged with tension and excitement.
The first part of the book concentrates on Branen's previous life in the '90s when he was trained by the secret service and involved in notorious crimes. I have to say that I found this part very rushed at times but also dragging and slow going at others and made me wonder whether I should persevere with this book or not. However as from the second part (the present day) the story gains momentum and I really started to enjoy it. The last part was my favourite and the most tension-packed. It is also the fastest part with events going on at breakneck speed till the heart-stopping cliffhanger at the end.
On the whole, this is a very engrossing thriller and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.
With thanks to Kate Appleton and Clink Street Publishing for sending me an advanced review copy.