First published back in November of 2007, ‘Paying The Piper’ was the second novel to be published from US author Simon Wood.

DLS Synopsis:
Eight years ago reporter Scott Fleetwood was taken in by a caller declaring himself to be the infamous serial killer, The Piper, who had been plaguing San Francisco and had just kidnapped his seventh child.  After listening to the caller and agreeing to meet, Fleetwood quickly became carried away with ideas of his career with the San Francisco Independent soaring following the publication of his firsthand interviews with The Piper.

However, the situation soon ends in utter tragedy when Fleetwood’s confessor is revealed to be a hoaxer named Mike Redfern.  Sucked in by Redfern’s story, Fleetwood’s lack of action in bringing Redford to the attention of the FBI ended with The Piper executing the young boy he had kidnapped.  And duly, the cold body of Nicholas Rooker was found lying in the park where Fleetwood had met with Redfern; a note on his chest simply stating “you’re to blame”.

Following the murder of Nicholas Rooker, The Piper went underground; seemingly putting an end to his reign of kidnapping that netted him in excess of ten million dollars in ransom.  However, now eight years later, and Scott Fleetwood’s world suddenly come crashing down on him after racing to the school where his two twin sons attend, to find that eight-year-old Samuel Fleetwood has been snatched from right outside the school.  And then he receives a call on his mobile.  An electronically disguised voice that brings back chilling memories from eight years ago.  A voice that he knows too well.  The voice of The Piper.

FBI agent Tom Sheils is brought back on to the case.  Having originally led the investigation to catch The Piper, Sheils now finds himself given another chance to catch the infamous serial kidnapper.  But he still holds a grudge against Scott Fleetwood for his part to play in Nicholas Rooker’s death.

As expected, within hours the first call comes in from The Piper demanding two million dollars in exchange for the return of the Fleetwood boy.  Millionaire property developer, Charles Rooker, who lost his son to The Piper due to Fleetwood’s intervention, steps in offering to pay the ransom.  A show of generosity that leaves Scott and his wife, Jane, humbled by the man’s strength of character.

But The Piper has other ideas.  Unbeknown to the FBI, The Piper wants more than money from Scott Fleetwood.  Scott has a debt to pay.  This is no longer about financial gain.  This kidnapping has become personal.  This kidnapping is about revenge...

DLS Review:
Simon Wood returns here with his second novel, offering up another sure-fire dose of high-adrenaline tension and fast-paced excitement alongside a rollercoaster ride of explosive action and nail-biting suspense.  From the very moment the tale first sets out, a palpable urgency engulfs the reader, and barely lets up from there on.  And it’s a sense of urgency that defines the novel, creating a head-swirling mix of edge-of-the-seat excitement and suspense.

The principal protagonist of Scott Fleetwood is an interesting mix of regret, frustration, helplessness, despair and sheer unadulterated desperation.  Fleetwood is portrayed as an easily likeable father and husband, whose mistake in the past still haunts him (as well as his family) to this day.  And in his admission of guilt, he becomes instantly human to the reader.  There’s an admirable honesty about Fleetwood that shines through his past.  And, although disliked and hated by many for what he did (or more specifically didn’t do) all those years ago, he nevertheless comes across as someone who has come to terms with his guilt and wants to rectify his wrongs.  As such, it becomes incredibly easy to empathise with the character; building understanding bonds with him as the harrowing events begin to unfold.

As the tale continues, Wood suddenly steers the kidnapping plot down a different path, forcing Fleetwood into a horrendously difficult dilemma...and a whole new world of worry.  The utterly helpless frustration that is projected from the character is agonisingly vivid.  The spiralling turn in events just keeps on cranking up the tension, making for a thrilling and altogether difficult to put down read that throws punch after punch at Fleetwood and his family.

Okay, reasonably early on in the tale it becomes somewhat easy to guess who’s likely to be involved in the quite unsurprising twist-ending.  Indeed, you don’t need to be the next Sherlock Holmes to work out a couple of key elements to what’s likely to be unveiled near the end.  But thankfully such predictability doesn’t really impede upon the overall enjoyment of the novel or ruin all that much of the high-tension finale.  Yes you saw it coming from several miles away, but Wood nevertheless weaves enough of an exciting yarn to keep the pace and energy of the storyline hurtling forwards which luckily overshadows any failings to surprise the reader.

There’s certainly enough in ‘Paying The Piper’ to keep most avid readers of pulse-thumping thrillers more than happy.  The plot’s laced with an abundance of twists and turns and hapless conspiracies.  All in all it’s well worth a read.

The novel runs for a total of 392 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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