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Amy Boxer, recalcitrant daughter of kidnap consultant, Charles Boxer, and Detective Inspector Mercy Danquah of the Kidnap and Special Investigations Unit, has decided on some drastic action. She’s leaving home. At 17 years old she’s entitled to do this but being Amy she can’t just walk out, she has to lay down a challenge to the multiple talents of her detestable parents: You Will Never Find Me.

Through Mercy’s contacts in the UK Border Agency they quickly discover that Amy has left the country, destination: Madrid. Boxer calls in a favour from his old friend in MI6 who finds out the name of her hotel. Boxer, who speaks Spanish, heads off to Spain. But she’s already gone and all leads point to the terrifyingly muscular figure of the Colombian drug baron known as El Osito, Little Bear.

Meanwhile Mercy needs to occupy her jittery mind and begs her boss to give her a job. He asks her to run a Special Investigation around the kidnap of a young boy, Sasha Bobkov, who has disappeared one morning on the way to his school in Hampstead. Sasha’s father, who was in the FSB (Russian secret service), but is now a businessman in London, has been moonlighting, trying to find the culprits who’d poisoned his old FSB friend Alexander Tereshchenko.

As Mercy tries to work out whether the gang holding Sasha is criminal or government inspired, a body is discovered in Madrid. Boxer’s attempt at revenge on El Osito goes horribly wrong and the hunter suddenly becomes the hunted. Meanwhile Mercy, distraught to the point of breakdown, is determined to put all wrongs to right by rescuing Sasha Bobkov, but the world she’s entered isn’t always as it seems and is hardly ever fair.

Hormonal horrors
While I don’t have children myself I have plenty of friends who do and it’s been rare to find a couple who’ve managed to get through their children’s teenage years without some sort of confrontation. This book has been inspired by all those stories of delinquency and conflict, but taken to a new extreme so that those involved can show each other their true worth under the most dramatic and visceral of circumstances.

Battered but unbowed
This is tougher than any assignment Boxer has taken on in his colourful career as soldier, detective and kidnap consultant. The disappearance of his daughter is on a par with his father walking out on him when he was only seven years old. The mental and emotional stress of the scenario opens up that dangerous black hole in his centre and he is shocked to find himself seeking enlightenment from the epitome of evil that is the weightlifting colossus, El Osito. Why would El Osito know anything that could help Boxer? Shouldn’t he be looking at the other end of the scale to the focused humanity of the Spanish detective in his daughter’s case, Luis Zorrito?

This is the worst thing that could possibly have happened to Mercy: having just seen Boxer, the love of her life, throw himself into the arms of another woman Amy then walks out, determined never to return. This is a merciless reminder of her resounding failure as both lover and mother. And when, later, she gets the worst possible news all she can do is fall back on that other vital persona that keeps her together in moments of crisis – professional Mercy. In this she is fortunate to have the kidnapped boy Sasha as her focus. He becomes the representation of all that is good in the world and it is through him that she decides she will find salvation. And then there’s Marcus Alleyne, the good-looking fence from Brixton, who nobody would regard as a career move.

A criminal state of affairs
I found it impossible to remain impervious to the gruesome poisoning of the ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium 210. What is even more interesting are the sheer numbers of strange goings-on in London featuring disenfranchised Russians who’ve fallen foul of one of the most incomprehensible states in our new global village. The lines have become so blurred between the criminal, the government and the secret service that people could be forgiven for no longer knowing the difference between black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.

Party town
Madrid has always had a world reputation for being one of the great cities to party down. The legendary nightclubs, the stunning girls and the near hysterical excitement of the locals made Madrid into one of the focal points of the cocaine trade. That was before 2008, when the credit crisis hit and Spain’s economy, built on the sandy foundations of the construction industry, saw 15% of its GDP demolished almost overnight. Nobody could sell a holiday home. Six million units of housing sat solidly unmoved on the banks’ balance sheets. The debt-riddled regions, who’d borrowed to build, had to beg, borrow and renege. The party was over and the Spanish, who’d been some of the biggest consumers of cocaine, went sober. The only place left in Europe where the money was still pouring in was…London.

London’s burning
A year after the crisis I was trying to buy a small flat in London. I found that wherever I looked I was competing with Greeks, Italians and Spaniards desperate to get their money out of their failing Southern European economies and into London property. The prices were going up while everywhere else was tanking and, what’s more, there were no flats available. The building boom had only momentarily floundered as the Shard continued its relentless upward trajectory. Where better for a Columbian drug baron to target his unsalable Spanish cocaine? Where better for Russians to hide from the relentless attention of their government’s apparatus?

Hardback: 352 pages
Orion (13 Feb 2014)