Jonas Merrick is an MI5 officer nicknamed disparagingly as the eternal flame because he never goes out in the field. He works his 9 to 5 and sticks to a routine. But he is tolerated because he is very good at what he does which is identifying suspected jihadis. From a chance encounter on his retirement day he adverts a terrorist attack and his services are suddenly much more in demand.
Cameron “Cammy” Jilks is a young British man who left the UK to go and become a “black flag” fighter in Syria. There he found his band of brothers, other foreign fighters who had travelled to the Middle East looking for a sense of belonging and adventure. One by one they were picked off as the caliphate came to its end. Now Cameron is the last man standing of his group and he’s returning to England to get his revenge on those he blames.
The story is very focused on those two characters and takes place over little more than a single day as Cameron makes the dangerous refugee crossing from France to England and towards his target.
piecing together a few clues Merrick knows Cammy is coming and finds himself finally going out into the field as he has an idea where Cameron will go first.
There are some supporting characters. They include a young pair of new MI5 recruits helping Jonas while wondering if this is the life for them after all and an elderly British couple making their way back from the continent with a package in their camper van.
It’s interesting to read a Gerald Seymour novel that is so focused in time and place. As mentioned before it takes place over little more than a day, apart from the prologue and Cameron’s flashbacks to Syria. Also the book largely takes place in the south of England with the exception of the flashbacks and a handful of other scenes. Yet the book is as entertaining as you would expect from Seymour.