Author: P S Bridge
Word Count: 92,000 approx.
Genre: Fiction; thriller
Date: 20th October 2016
Imagine a perfect life being dissolved in an instant. Your career destroyed, your spouse killed and your family threatened. Now think about what you would do if you had a background marked by a specific skill set, one that involved guns, tactics, subterfuge – and the law. You’d want to seek justice, wouldn’t you?
Mark King certainly does. The protagonist of P.S. Bridge’s Hit is a pretty cool customer; though he’s a very human one. During the book he gets wrapped up in a criminal syndicate which ruins his life. And what a life he has – hotshot lawyer, nice house, pretty wife, two kids...
Unfortunately for the bad guys, Mark has quite the background. He was a Sandhurst dropout and an elite sniper in the British Army. Poking the hornets’ nest may not be the brightest thing the evil Invictus Advoca organisation have tried, but damn, it makes for some fun reading.
So, Mark King is living the cushy life working for a leading law firm. Due to his courtroom acumen, he is farmed out to prosecute a terrorist mastermind – Mohammed Al Azidi. It’s a high-stakes case that is being closely watched by Downing Street. However, after taking it on, things start to go a little bizarre. Not only is Mark harassed by a journalist (whom he is very dismissive of, ridiculing him often in public) but his wife starts noticing a strange car in the neighbourhood. On top of that, Mark starts getting threatening phone calls, urging him to drop the case.
One morning he sees the car his wife was talking about, and Mark goes over, challenging the occupants. The two men in the car are actually hitmen, Vose and Lomas, disguised as gardeners. They make it look like Mark attacks them, the journalist photographing everything. Mark is let go from the case and put up for investigation by the CPS. After returning home from the office and a trip to the gun range to calm down, Mark finds his wife dead, shot in the head.
At first suspected with killing his wife, the evidence eventually points elsewhere. Mark sends his kids off to live with his wife’s mother in New York after the funeral. Knowing they are safe, he hatches a plan for vengeance. He gets in touch with a Mafioso type with whom he shares a grudging respect. Mark once prosecuted Russo – in a great bit of spice for the sake of fun fiction, the two have come to appreciate one another’s talents and capabilities. The Mafia man arms Mark with a variety of gear and lends him an armoured Mercedes.
Mark contacts an old friend, Nial Atkinson. Atkinson was an elite military man, who now resides in a rest home, living out his days in peace. There is a bit of mystery that gets returned to surrounding Atkinson, but initially he sets Mark up with a great base of operations – an old nuclear bunker. Having bought the place off the government, it sits unoccupied. After Atkinson lends the place to Mark, the latter kits it out with security systems, a flat, internet access, a wardrobe of disguises and a slew of functional upgrades to track down the people responsible for his wife’s death.
Mark identifies Voss and Lomas as the assassins who were in the car that day and who gunned down his wife. He kills Lomas with a sniper round and wounds Vose. Afterwards he watches the premises to see what happens. He sees Vose talking with a man in a car. Apprehending him, the man provides Mark with a courier list of men that are involved in some sort of conspiracy. This becomes his hit list.
What follows is a series of events that unfold at breakneck pace. The clandestine organisation Invictus Advoca is smuggling arms for use by Mohammed Al Azidi. Mark learns of this between kills in Germany. Eventually he destroys the shipment, working his way deeper into the group’s hide. However, searching about his secret bunker turns him on to important info – chiefly, the mystery surrounding Nial Atkinson.
Nial explains Invictus Advoca and its existence. Originally started as a cabal of ex-forces mercenaries, the group had taken on a more sinister role. Run by a man named Thomas Lundon, who used to be friends with Atkinson, it exists to cause suffering and financial gain. Nial managed to extricate himself from the group and now lives quietly and safely in the nursing home, although constantly fearing reprisal. He sends Mark to Spain, where he will find more about the organisation when he meets a man called El Toro.
El Toro was a member of Invictus Advoca as well. Even more of the picture is filled in. But Mark and El Toro are attacked in the latter’s well-defended castle. After seeing off the small force sent to get them, they attack Invictus Advoca’s base in Northern Africa. Finally confronting his enemy, Mark learns that Lundon’s motives are etched in his own past.
Lundon and Mark’s father were friends, running in the same circles. Though Lundon was ridiculed for the epilepsy he suffered. Socially spurned, he felt the need to punish Mark’s father by hurting the son. Wishing to either convert Mark to his cause or destroy him, Lundon set everything up. Realising that Mark would never accept the tenets of Invictus Advoca, Lundon engineered Mark’s fall from grace. Mark shoots him for the effort, and Lundon falls from a platform, seemingly dead. In the afterward, Lundon is alive, although seriously injured. A mystery woman declares that she wants Mark King dead.
There are some curious constructs to this action-thriller. One involves the changes that Mark goes through from ace attorney to hardened killer. It’s an exciting journey, and it’s one full of energetic excitement. Still, throughout the work, Mark never loses sight of his humanity, often questioning his inner thoughts through the presentation of expansive internal dialogue. Drinking scotch and smoking cigarettes, Mark copes in his own ways, always holding on to a sense of self-measure for his actions. This evolution is echoed in a really refreshing way.
I’m tired of fiction that presents the ‘perfect’ hero. The one that never misses, whose thoughts are always in check, balanced, resolved. Mark is not of this breed. Not that his skills and deductions aren’t expert, but he is very human. His failure to kill Vose again and again (wounding the hitman on numerous occasions) interjects a hint of slapstick, and in a great symmetry, makes Vose question his own path. There is something... everyman about Mark, but with a clear delineation marking his lethality.
The setting and plot are good and simple. The meat here is the action and suspense, and too convoluted a story would ruin the impact. That being said, there are enough twists (and great use of foreshadowing) to keep things fresh. I loved the technological/military slant to the work, with Mark’s high tech gadgets, weapons and secret bunker to boot. In addition, there is ample room for a follow-up, which is alluded to at the conclusion.
Hit is also capably written in easy, cinematic prose. I enjoyed Hit. It had equal parts pathos and logic, all mixed in with a man’s journey, both figurative and literal. Mark is vividly portrayed in this kind of hyper-focus that keeps the reader interested. Complementing this, the plot, settings and locations work in a harmony that belies how meticulously it was prepared and thought out. This is fun action – suspenseful, meaningful and hell-bent on revenge. Who doesn’t love a story of retribution? I am happy to recommend it for publication.