Marked for Death sets out its stall on the first page: an 85 year old man, widowed and alone in his beautiful but now much too big London home, is awoken in the night by the sound of an intruder. The old man, hardly able to walk unaided, staggers to confront the stranger.
Except it’s not a stranger who has broken into the house of retired Lord Chief Justice Philip Longman. It is a man the UK’s most prominent lawyer recognises from his past. A man bent on revenge. And to the shock and dismay of London’s legal establishment, that revenge means Longman’s horrific murder by vicious torture and eventual crucifixion.
So begins a chain of brutal slayings. And it’s up to Michael Devlin, a leading QC, to find out why his old colleagues’ and friends are being serially butchered. Who is the man with the strange eyes, ‘the most soulless Longman had ever seen’, and why has he appointed himself Grim Reaper to London’s legal great and good?
Devlin is joined in his search by his fiancée Sarah Truman, a leading television journalist, and DCI Joelle Levy, a brilliantly drawn character who combined skill and intelligence with much warmth. Initially, Devlin is oblivious to the return of the murderous stranger from his own past, but when the killer strikes close to Devlin’s present life and closest friendships, the QC struggles with enormous grief and guilt. And from here on the danger to him and those he loves draws terrifyingly close.
This twisty, tightly-plotted and fast-paced thriller is especially fascinating about the legal world. The way barristers live, talk, and prepare for the criminal cases they take on rings true. Marked for Death is particularly satisfying because it comes straight from the horse’s mouth: Kent is himself a 41-year-old barrister. He began his legal career at 22. He’s had quite a life, has Kent, boxing from the age of 11 and ending as a heavyweight. (This gives added interest to the fight sequences in the book).
Clearly, Kent writes from a position of extreme physical strength, and Devlin is a tall and imposingly powerful man himself. Like the author he played rugby for many years, worked as a doorman in pubs and clubs, and lived a pretty dangerous life. He hoped that the law would offer him a change of pace; a world without risk of physical injury. He was, Kent tells us, wrong.
The criminal world is deeply violent and lawyers get dragged into it.
So this novel drips with accuracy. Kent actually based the killer on a real-life villain who drew up a ‘kill-list’ of every individual he blamed for putting him in jail – including Kent. Fortunately in this case, the list was found and the prisoner re-incarcerated, never to be released.
So that’s the inspiration for this thriller. Marked for Death has the real ring of authenticity. Devlin is a tough but charming hero – and it makes for a terrific read.