“Random Targets” by James Raven (Robert Hale, 2014)

Random Targets
starstarstarHalf Star

An average day of rush hour traffic near Southampton on an English motorway soon turns to tragedy and mayhem when a sniper shoots two motorists. With the large number of automobiles on the roads there is soon a massive pileup with a number of people killed and many more injured. DCI Jeff Temple of the Major Investigations Team is brought in to investigate. It is the worst tragedy he’s ever seen but he knows he must focus and do his job to the best of his ability to catch the person behind these killings, for the man or woman has left a painted message on a wall for them to find, indicating this will happen again.

As the many rescue workers help those in need and try to get the motorway back up and running again, Temple gets his team together and they glean what few facts they can. The killer is a sharp shooter using a specific sniper rifle that is not easy to acquire, either through extreme black market means or the British military. The killer has left no prints and very little detail that he exists, other than a brief hooded shot on a CCTV camera. Temple’s girlfriend, also a member of the constabulary, was involved in the devastation and has suffered a serious head injury and is recovering in hospital, so he also has a very personal connection to the case and wanting to catch this killer.

Before the team has a chance to put much together, the killer strikes again on a different motorway. There are more dead and many more injured but little evidence to show for it, other than another message that there will be more shootings to come. The next hit is on the great M25 ring-road around London which heavily disrupts traffic for some time. There are those who fear to travel on the motorways anymore and choose to use smaller rural streets, clogging up the countryside. A reward is offered which soon grows to £2.5 million by all the businesses and people involved for any information on the killer.

Temple has his own idea who might be behind it and is doing his best to track down the man. At the same time a new task force is convened as there is new evidence possibly linking these killings to a terrorist cell related to Al-Qaeda. Temple now has a higher-up he reports to, but he’s still pretty sure that his suspect is the killer behind all this.

While Random Targets perhaps lacks the tightly-edited speed and pace of American thrillers, the step-by-step progression of the case and the characters give the book a very realistic feel, as if this is exactly how a case would be investigated and solved in Britain. There is little background development in the characters other than Temple and his girlfriend, Angel, and what few additional female characters there are end up being simply described by their looks and body type. When the ending is revealed, which isn’t completely a surprise, it is done in a ham-handed all telling and no showing way that kills all the momentum of the book.

Random Targets is an interesting look into English law enforcement and how they work when there is a deadly killer on the loose. While the book is lacking in areas of character development and the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, overall the book is a fun and interesting read.

Originally written on October 5, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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