We finally have the return of night-time hitman and day-time police inspector Denis Milne in Simon Kernick’s revenge thriller A Good Day To Die. This is Kernick’s fourth novel, and I was interested to note that he has kept his amoral protagonist in the shadows in his last two books. The wait is certainly worth it, for this is a deliciously complex thriller which faces the question of morality and revenge head-on. The Ian Fleming-fashioned title and cover is curiously apt, as we have a globe-trotting tale of murder and revenge with protagonist Milne who features all the twists and internal conflicts that formed the character of Fleming’s literary spy James Bond. The novel also has a landscape populated by low-life hoodlums, underworld overlords and corrupt people from the upper echelons of society all fighting to survive in the cracks and bullet-holes that ripple through life and death.
Denis Milne appeared in Kernick’s debut novel The Business of Dying which came out in the UK in 2002 and a year later in the US, Europe and Japan. The Business of Dying was a fast-paced hip thriller based firmly ingangland North London and featured DS Milne and his partner Asif Malik who get embroiled in investigating the gruesome murder of teenage prostitute Miriam Fox. Despite the darkness in Milne’s psyche, he has a code, a morality that makes his persona of great interest as a series character. After the close of The Business of Dying, Milne is forced into exile, as he has to flee London for the warmer [and safer?] climes of the Philippines where he takes on the non-de-plume Mick [Marcus] Kane. Back in London, Asif Malik - who appeared in Kernick’s second and third novels The Murder Exchange and The Crime Trade - returns from beyond the grave to haunt Dennis Milne in a mortal twist of fate.
The theme of A Good Day to Die is morality; the use and abuse of power. Considering that Milne starts the tale by committing two cold blooded murders but ends up the hero tells you much about the yarn that Kernick weaves from, because there are many cruel and evil people who hide in our grey world of confused morality.
As a thriller, this is second to none, and, as an examination into morality, it probably poses more questions than answers, but during the hours it takes to read this tale of revenge, you get a chance to look at yourself through the eyes of Milne, which for my money is well worth the price of admission.
Laura Lippman, a writer who often looks beneath the cracks in society in her own fiction, recently reviewed it: “It’s a fast-paced yet deeply moral thriller with a thoughtful protagonist who never mistakes himself for a hero.” I’d disagree, because for my money Milne is the flawed hero, but in Kernick’s world the line between villain and hero is almost invisible, like a spider’s thread.
So Shots eZine decided to track down Simon Kernick to find out more about the return of Denis Milne and A Good Day to Die.
Life and The Latest Offering By Simon Kernick
When I originally wrote my first novel, The Business of Dying, about a Met detective who moonlights as a vigilante-style hitman, I intended it as a standalone. There were two reasons for this: firstly, the nature of the story didn’t exactly lend itself to sequels; and secondly, because of this, I already had other ideas for books that didn’t involve my central protagonist, DS Dennis Milne.
But sometimes it’s hard to keep an ambiguous man down, and three years and three books later, Milne is returning in my latest offering, A Good Day to Die. Now in self-imposed exile in the Philippines, where he runs a hotel and lives quietly, he reluctantly agrees to carry out a local hit of a major criminal and, in doing so, he stumbles upon a clue that could help solve the recent murder of his old friend and colleague, Asif Malik, back in London. Milne is a wanted man but he still decides to risk everything by returning home to find out who ordered Malik’s death and why.
He arrives in a pre-Christmas climate that’s cold and hostile, and although his former colleagues in the Met don’t know he’s back, it soon becomes clear that there are people who do, and they’ll stop at nothing to get him out of the way.
It’s more of a thriller than my previous books because, with Milne as an outsider working alone, there’s far less of a conventional police procedural element. Plus, he doesn’t have to play by the rules, which means the villains get the sort of satisfying comeuppance that the courts rarely manage to deliver. The story’s fast moving, there are plenty of twists and I’m hoping people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll do well.
Writing can be a strange old game. It doesn’t matter how well you think you’re performing; in the end your success, or lack of it, is largely out of your hands. I’m pleased with the way my career’s going, though. I’m building up a good readership, both in the UK and abroad, with my work now appearing in ten different languages, and I’m contracted for a total of six books, so there’s at least some element of job security. It helps too that my publishers, Transworld, have been very supportive. Like every job, you need good people behind you.
As a writer, making a name for yourself can take a long time but there’s no way round that. If you were interested in fame, fortune and a fast buck you wouldn’t be one in the first place. Still…
…there are times when it would be nice.
Simon Kernick’s new novel A Good Day to Die is published by Bantam Press, price £12.99, and released June 2nd.
More information at www.simonkernick.com