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'First Response', Stephen Leather

Nine men wearing suicide vests bring London to its knees over the course of a few short hours, their stated aim: the release of six convicted ISIS terrorists being held in Belmarsh Prison. The means: hostages held at nine seemingly random locations - a childcare centre, a church, a packed London bus - nowhere seems safe. The challenge for London’s police: negotiate a settlement before the 6pm deadline, and avert what could potentially be the single most devastating attack by terrorists in the country’s history.

Veteran author Stephen Leather has crafted a real page-turner, looking at how Britain’s capital might respond to an unprecedented crisis. A cross between a police procedural and a time-bomb thriller, Leather goes behind the scenes at one of London’s Incident Control Centres, and produces an extremely believable, punchy yet understated narrative that will cause you to second-guess and question right to its final page. Will London erupt in flames, or can the Metropolitan Police, backed by the SAS, avert tragedy on a massive scale? Only time will tell, and the clock is definitely ticking.

'First Response' was released in Australia by Hachette on 25 February 2015.

Please note: a version of this review appeared in Issue No 505 of The Big Issue (Australia) on 18 February 2016.

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