Breathe deeply before you start because there aren’t any pauses for air in Pendulum. This full-on thriller just keeps gathering pace as a tale of personal jeopardy blossoms into an epic race against time with ramifications for world security. Hamdy takes a couple of news nuggets adds a couple of imaginative ‘what if’s?’ and weaves them into a confident polished thrill-fest.

Photojournalist John Wallace is concentrating on his computer when there’s a knock on the door of his flat. When he opens it something is sprayed in his face. When he comes round Wallace is blindfold with a rope around his neck, his wrists and ankles loosely bound with silk. His assailant tells him it will be easier if he stands up so he does. Now he realises his assailant means to kill him, he’s fighting for his life, he strikes out restrained and unable to see, it’s not possible to get a decent momentum into his attack. He begs the assailant to let him go and the mysterious figure cuts his bonds and removes the blindfold, Wallace is standing on a chair but he begins to hope again. His attacker is clad in black, his clothes are armoured and he’s wearing a mask. Suddenly he kicks the chair away and Wallace drops, hanging, swinging like a pendulum; panic, fear, remorse and then nothing. He’s suddenly jolted back to consciousness, the beam holding the rope has broken, his would be killer isn’t in the room but he returns blocking the exit as Wallace recovers. There’s only one thing for it, Wallace dives out the window, a two-story fall, badly hurt, adrenaline fuelled, the survival instinct kicks in – a naked man running for his life.

Wallace wakes in hospital, unidentified, a volunteer on suicide watch at his bedside. When Sergeant Bailey questions Wallace it’s clear the detective is sceptical. The doctors think Wallace tried to commit suicide which leads to a spell in the Maybury clinic. Bailey investigates Wallace’s flat, there’s no evidence of third-party involvement. It probably is the scene of a failed suicide attempt but something is niggling at Bailey, Wallace really seemed so convinced of what he was saying. Unnoticed, the would be assassin returns, breaking into the hospital, Wallace has to flee for his life. Now he’s on the run from the law too. There’s only one friend he can turn to, Connie. She takes him in but he has to find out why someone he doesn’t know is trying to kill him. Trawling through stories of ‘suicides’ online Wallace hits on a clue, a man who may have been a victim of the same killer. The problem is his wife believes that Huvane committed suicide. Wallace find just enough to convince Bailey he may be telling the truth so they set a trap for the killer. Things go badly wrong and now not only Wallace, but Connie and Bailey and anyone else he comes into contact with are all in mortal danger. The people who can help him are naturally hostile, the killer is on his trail, time is running out and there’s a lot more at stake than the fate of a few people. The closer Wallace gets the more violent his nemesis becomes . . .

Wallace is an interesting character from the start readers will get a strong sense of the psychological trauma of his ordeal. Wallace knows the face of a man who’s given up on life, as a war photographer he’s seen men surrender to fate before. Now he’s experienced that moment of being broken for himself, only he survives, not by force of will but sheer luck. He was dead for one brief moment before fortune brought him back to the land of the living. This fast paced thriller takes the reader on a journey with Wallace as he tries to piece together an explanation for why someone wants him dead and why they wanted it to look like suicide. He has no idea what he is about to go through or the can of worms he is about to open.

Hamdy maintains the breakneck pace from page one to the tense denouement. The constant action and the intrigue about what could possibly be behind Wallace’s living nightmare sustain this book, a drop in pace or significant hiatus would kill the mood.

One of the things I really liked was the plausible way characters react. When he finds himself with a rope around his neck Wallace tries to remain silent, not to attract attention, give himself time to assess his situation. To think before he confronts his attacker, he’s rational, up to a point, however, his attitude changes as the reality of the situation hits home; ‘please don’t’. The cause and devastating effect of violence are evident throughout the novel.

If you want a blistering read, in the zeitgeist, that poses a few questions about the future, this is for you. Pendulum is the first in a trilogy including Freefall and Aftershock. Adam Hamdy’s new novel Black 13 will be released in January 2020.

Paul Burke 4/4

Pendulum by Adam Hamdy
Headline 9781472233479 pbk Mar 2017