Disclaimer – I received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and unbiased review
‘The minute hand of the big clock pointed to the heaves, finally eclipsing its smaller sister. There was a moment of stillness. A lull before the storm. The peace at the centre of a hurricane’s eye.’
Five different people. Five separate lives. Sixty minutes to bind them for ever.
Hassan, Jim, Shuna, Dan and Nadia come from very different worlds. If life were straightforward, their paths would never cross. But our lives are rarely that simple and, as the clock ticks away the minutes of a single hour on a July morning, fate draws all five together in a headlong rush towards disaster.
Who are the heroes and who are the villains?
What I thought
I really love books like this, people all with their own stories and lives intertwining. All the small side characters in our lives are the lead in their own and for every person at the Natural History Museum the day of this story, there is a different reason for being there. All of the individuals strings in a web coming together and then disappearing again on their own paths.
The strength of these kind of books isn’t in the plot – although the plot is important, it’s mostly just about people’s lives leading up to a thing, and then the thing happening. The strength is in the characters, it’s about their lives and if they don’t feel real then the story feels apart. It’s their lives that we care about. The five lives we follow in this story are Hassan, Jim, Shuna (and her two kids), Dan, and Nadia. Each chapter tells us a bit more about their story and what they are doing that morning
Hassan – his growth (both good and bad) is annoyingly realistic and a bit obvious no matter how much I didn’t want it to be true. From his time as a kid having to deal with an emotionally abusive father because he was brain and not brawn. To being in Oxford and discovering that the woman he loved was engaged and having a major crisis of faith. He’s sympathetic and you can see why he makes every decision he does even if I don’t agree with his choices.
Jim – He’s an arse, anyone whose life plan is screwed by the impact of other people existing is an arse. I feel I should expand on this one sentence but I really don’t want to. He feels very real and just like any real person it is possible to dislike him. Again I can understand his reasons, doesn’t mean I have to like him though. And because he’s real does good and bad, and no matter how much I think he’s an arse it doesn’t outweigh his good and the good doesn’t stop him being an arse. But seriously, your life plan should allow for the existence of other people and their free will to do what they want. Otherwise it’s a really shitty plan.
Shuna – A mum of two kids, one mouthy teen and one pre-pubescent trying to get over a period of severe depression due to how her actions turned out for someone else. A complaint about Jim as a taxi driver turned out to be one of many and led to his probation. Her complaint was a valid one and the consequences were because of a multitude of things but Shuna’s was the straw that broke the camels back. It tells you a lot about who she is as a person that her guilt over someone else’s actions led to a period of depression. She’s doing her best to move on from the darkness by organising a holiday for her husbands birthday and focus on being the best mum to her kid’s possible.
Dan – Such a gentle old soul with a hurt heart and history. Spending a couple of hours in the Natural History Café while his partner is going on a shopping spree, he’s knows himself well enough to know that he would just get annoyed and in the way if he went with her. They’re visiting the country from Canada and he wants to make sure they both have the best holiday possible. In talking with a possible girlfriend of one of the security guards (the one that isn’t Jim) he’s reminded of his life before his wife and the grief that is still with him. I love this old man, he’s got a life behind him and you can feel that life and the hurt that stayed with his all this time. He’s such a gently old man with a sad history but he’s still pushing forward and is determined to live his life and make sure this holiday with his wife is the best possible for the pair of them.
Nadia – An MI5/MI6 agent (I’m not entirely sure of the difference between the two or which one Nadia works for) whose returned from time undercover and is desperate to stop ‘The Unicorn’ and to stop whatever terrorist action is about to happen. At times she felt a bit ‘generic agent’ but she’s got character behind the job. She fell for a man while undercover and wanted to get permission to tell him who she really was but he found out she was lying to him and called it off. With her parents deaths when she was a child she was brought up by an aunt who was more interested in her own life than in having anything to do with her niece’s and kicked her out when she was 18 because there was an opportunity in NY that she ‘just couldn’t say no to’
Why I read it
I was offered a chance to get a free copy of this book in return for review. I was interested because I love stories with seemingly separate stories and people merging together.
I thought this story showed the intertwined lives really well, Shuna’s and Jim’s link is clear from the beginning as her complaint led to him loosing his job (him stalking her also had a fairly major part in that). You see them all reach the Natural History Museum in the hour before terror attack is due to take place. Hussain’s story felt very stereotypical and obvious but I could see how it happened and still sympathise with him. I loved how Nadia was constantly having to deal with her Muslim faith and having to deal with dealing with IS terrorist threats.
Did I enjoy it? Yes
Am I glad I read it? Yup
Would I read again? Maybe
Would I recommend? Yeah. Not to everyone but it’s a a fun thriller.
Tony’s latest thriller, Sixty Minutes, was released on 29th August 2019. Tony is the author of bestselling psychological thriller, Best Eaten Cold. He writes pacy contemporary thrillers which explore different themes, but all share Tony’s thought-provoking plots and richly-painted characters. Sixty Minutes is his fourth novel. His second novel, The Old Orchard – a gripping family thriller – was published on the 7th of November 2017 and the sequel to Best Eaten Cold, – Cold Intent – was published in November 2018. Highlights of his early career include (in no particular order) three years as an oilfield engineer in the Egyptian desert, twelve years managing record companies for EMI Music in Greece, India and across Eastern Europe, running a caravan site in the South of France and being chauffeur to the French Consul in Sydney. Having survived the Dotcom boom, he went on to be a founder of the world’s largest website for expatriates, a major music publisher and a successful hotel technology business. In amongst this, Tony found the time to backpack around the world twice (once in his twenties and once in his fifties), learn six languages (including Norwegian and Greek) and to find a beautiful Norwegian wife. He now lives in Oxfordshire and writes full-time. He has recently turned sixty and is married with three children and five grandchildren. You can find out more about Tony at http://www.tonysalter.com