A bomb in a crowded London market place; a frantic search as the clock ticks down; an explosion; two young people whose lives will never be the same again. Sophie McKenzie’s new thriller has a typically gripping opening.
Split Second is set in London in the near future. It’s a bleak world in which the gap between rich and poor has yawned hopelessly wide and many are living in poverty. Fascist groups have risen up offering easy answers to a population looking for someone to blame. Could one of these have planted the bomb?
Central characters Nat and Charlie are both driven by the need to find those responsible. Charlie’s mum was killed in the blast, while Nat’s brother Lucas has been left in a coma. For Charlie it’s about justice or simply revenge, but things are more complicated for Nat who suspects that his brother was at the market to plant the bomb. Kids with nothing to lose, they are an easy target for direct action groups and are recruited by an organisation claiming to be opposed to the fascist League of Iron blamed for the bomb. But are the English Freedom Army really the good guys?
The story is told by Nat and Charlie themselves, first person narrative in alternating chapters. At first they are wary, but as the plot unfolds, and all those they have looked to for guidance prove deceitful, the two realise they have no-one to trust but each other.
This a story that throws up twists and surprises chapter by chapter to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, and covers some very topical issues. And at the heart of it are Nat and Charlie, flawed, complex and very believable, characters you really care about. Sophie McKenzie has already written some superb thrillers for teens; this is her best yet. Highly recommended.